Marriage Letters: How We Co-labor

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Dear Seth,

That ancient gallon-sized pickle jar in the garage is full of old homemade chicken broth, isn’t it? It went bad while I was in Haiti, and you had the four boys by yourself, and I bet it started to smell iffy in there, so you pulled it out of the fridge and ran it to the garage so you could carry on with the grind. It’s possible that we all die from it somehow. I nearly died when I saw it. It could blow up, you know. Anyway, I’m not touching that stuff. This is worthy of a stand-off, and I’m not saying I haven’t considered putting it in the trunk of your car, but other than that, we really are co-laborers, aren’t we?

I’ve always known you would send me places, but I never actually expected it because that hasn’t been modeled for me. Right, wrong, or indifferent, I grew up in a world where women stay home, unless the bills require her work. I don’t think I ever grew to expect to be anywhere other than my own kitchen. Let’s be honest, though; no matter how good my attitude is, I’ve never shined a single day in the kitchen unless we’re talking biscuits or cornbread, but that also isn’t very special where I come from.

When we were younger, you would read my poetry, but it never crossed my mind that my art could be a contrast to the world, that my voice wasn’t it’s own blend of the noise. I never would have thought to put my work up against real poets to get into a good program. You were the one that said I could, and so then I did.

You’ve always prefaced your words with “I’m not usually charismatic, but [insert charismatic statement here.]”  I’ve known for a long time that the Spirit speaks very clearly to you and through you. I believe the greatest part of co-laboring is how ones sees into the unseen, like how you’ve prayed and seen a kingdom fit for me, the intentions of a good God. We are reclaiming the word “prophecy” together. I look at you and see every shade of good, not depraved, not jackass, not man who forgets chicken broth in the garage. You look at me and see poet, lover, thinker, not woman who leans exhausted at the counter, not woman whose ideas carry less weight. This is the energy behind how we work together.

I always thought that only one of us would get to pursue what we love, the words and the travelling, the music and the campfire communion. What I expected was that you would pursue what you love, and that I would let go of my passions to back you up. You’ve been to Africa three times without me, but something happened in me as you dove deeper into your passions. I believed you. I closed my eyes and saw it. I accept the shifting in you as my own shifting. It wasn’t my dying and your coming alive. When one follows into something, it gives life to the both of us.

Unity is an enmeshing. This is how the Spirit of God works. When I reported back to you from Haiti, you took what I was hearing and seeing, and a vision formed in you as well. We are always two perspectives colliding. We are always a paradox at work, a mystery working itself out. When I was there, I only saw more and more how we fit together. How Mike says you come alive on the ground, I was coming alive, too.

Clouds seem to be gathering hard and strong for us. We are shifting, and if one shifts, the other has to shift as well. This isn’t a one-legged race. Two sets of eyes provide two ways to see the world. We are one. We are each a leg holding up a body. We lean in, shift, balance, and somehow move forward. Into what, I don’t think we know yet. Co-laboring is submission, sure, but not that one can stand and the other can fall. This is the kind of submission that brings life.

You don’t have to walk with me the way you do. It’s our culture to drag and hobble along. Sometimes we even run.

Right now I think our heart rate is up a bit, don’t you?

Amber

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Okay, folks, join us and write a letter to your spouse even if your spouse isn’t able to play along. This stuff has been good for us. Today write about “How We Co-labor,” and on the first Monday of next month, June 2nd, our topic will be “On Comparison.” Take it how you will: about comparing your marriage to other marriages or comparing yourself to your spouse or how comparison has been a struggle. This month watch for it, and write in June what you saw.

 

 

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Marriage Letters: What Makes You Come Alive

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Dear Seth,

We slipped out of the Masquerade Ball early because we had a babysitter, and no matter how fancy the company, the two of us won’t waste the chance to be alone. This stage of small children makes date nights feel like a visit to the marital ER. The ice storm was on its way, and the air lingered with the last jets of warm. It was just chilly enough for me to tuck my exposed arms into your arm. High heels hurt my feet, but I love walking in them like a girl in dress-up. I love walking with you up Dickson Street. We crossed the street to Bordino’s but then looked back from where we had walked and saw the Used Bookstore. Quickly we crossed back over. We walked straight to the poetry, skimming titles; you squatted in the floor. I saw John Ciardi and said “you will love this.”

My gown was floor length. Leonard Cohen was singing over us. I crouched with you, we leaning on a wall of ancient books. I read a poem out loud to you, and it was perfect. Then you stood up and said, “we have to buy it.” Poetry captures you. The Masquerade Ball did not.

At dinner I told you how thankful I am that you’re a lawyer. There are moments that it makes you shine. You love a courtroom. It makes me laugh because I hope to never step foot in a courtroom. You love to order words. Your gift of persuasion has done you well by me and many others. I know what is beneath it, too.

When I married you, you had never mentioned becoming an attorney. You were a youth minister. You were a young preacher. It’s funny that your gift of preaching has followed you into maturity and that no matter how hard you tried to run from it, you still do it. It’s what makes you come alive. You love to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. 

Mike said I should have seen you in Ethiopia. I wish I could see you on African soil, but I know that when you come home, you smile and shake your head and have a hard time finding words. I expect poetry to come of it all. You became a poet when words couldn’t add up. Poetry doesn’t do math. It speaks in mystery.

I have watched you come alive in the mystery. When you lead worship, I believe you step outside of your own body a little. When you play you stomp your feet. The question is – “what makes you stomp your feet?” Music and persuasive expression of spirit make you stomp your feet.

This is when you are most attractive to me, when Africa is the smell trapped in your bag, when your throbbing heart beats out of your mouth: poetry, mystery, praise.

I love you.

Amber

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MarriageLettersMarriage Letters go up the first Monday of every month, and you’re welcome to link up your own letter any time during the month. The Marriage Letter prompt for April 7th is “How We Co-labor.” So you have an entire month to think on it!

Now write a letter to your spouse expressing what you see makes her/him come alive. I can’t wait to read these. Make sure to link up below with the permalink to your Marriage Letters post only and send your readers this direction, too. Let’s stake a claim in our marriages and encourage others to do the same. Thank you for joining us in this.

 

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Marriage Letters: Once Upon a Time

MarriageLettersDear Seth,

These were the days they warned us about. We are tired, and it’s all starting to blur together. I can’t remember what year what happened, and we’ve only been married for 14 years. Forty years from now, I’ll be making up our story altogether, so I’m just glad we’re writing this stuff down now.

I do remember that we had been married for one year when we moved to Fayetteville to the little house behind grandma and grandpa. They had the Rock House, with the fish pond and huge pots of tomatoes. During the day we would sneak Dr Peppers out of her kitchen. At night we ate her ice-cream and watched Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy with closed captions. You worked at Office Depot before you got into law school, and we were so poor. Do you remember how desperately we need that break after the sick church, that simple time with your grandparents? Between my classes, she would make a huge tupperware bowl of tuna fish salad. It had sweet relish and miracle whip in it. She put frozen wheat bread in the microwave and placed the slices on a beautiful plate with tiny pink and blue flowers around the gold rim. She cut it into triangles and put a straw in my drink.

I would pour out my heart to her in increments because she was of a time that believed women should only wear white panties. She knew nothing of my past. She only wanted to make sure I said my prayers and read my Bible. I was trying so hard.

Do you remember how I decorated with scraps of fabric and too many picture frames? Remember the kitchen? There were approximately four cabinets and four drawers. We shopped the chicken house for old side tables. It was mishmash, and I didn’t care. I just wanted us to be good.

It takes so much more than prayers and bible-study, but I wanted marriage to be just that simple, how grandma said. There were ghosts in every room of our little house, and I thought that when we married they would leave me. I thought being under you would make me free, but it turns out that isn’t how it’s done at all. I believed in the metaphor. I believed the metaphor of marriage would do magic.

Think of us these years later, and I never look back on that time with any sadness until I ask myself to write it out. This is a hard stage, the daily grind of it, but I have never believed you more than now, that you love everything about me.

I didn’t realize then how much you would really come to know me, the me I didn’t know I was hiding and how she struggled with old ghosts. Once upon a time I hoped that you would really love me. I hoped that 14 years later I would love you.

You work a metaphor like Wendell’s farm. I say my prayers and read my Bible every single day. And I do love you. There are no magic tricks. Let’s tell the young people. It’s the day to day that always bleeds, how we run into one another, how we never stop becoming one, and how we still sometimes have to wrestle ghosts.

I am tired, but not of you, and I’ll never stop wrestling for you.

Amber

We’re starting these marriage letters again, because we need them. Go ahead and read Seth’s letter here.

When we were writing these a while back, others of you needed them, too. Even couples in church small groups followed some of the prompts. It’s good to know our own condition and to sit and think through where we are and where we’ve been, where you need to turn your attention. We have young friends who will tie the knot this year, and we pray for them with all the hope in the world. That’s how you start out, isn’t it? It’s the only thing we have: so much hope in an unseen thing.

Today we want to start again by remembering back to where we first began, the air of it all. We’re inviting you to join us in processing with a monthly prompt, and this one is “Once Upon a Time.” You can’t really mess this up unless it’s just to tell your husband he’s crappy. Try to do that in private first maybe. Otherwise, write to your spouse and tell her or him how you remember it. What was it you were hoping for when you first began? 

We’ll be writing Marriage Letters the first Monday of every month and will provide you with a prompt a month in advance. You can leave a link here any time you decide to join us. Go ahead and plan to write a letter to your spouse on March 3rd, and go ahead and leave comments with suggestions for Marriage Letters topics, too.

Add your hyperlink and be sure to send your readers here so they can read other letters. Simple as that.

Marriage Letters: On Outside Influences

from weheartit

Dear Seth,

I came to marriage with misconceptions – what is sexy, what is biblical wife, what is it to make a man happy. I think often in all our not-knowingness, we reach for answers and affirmations. We feel weak in our wobbly dyad, so we look for another something to hold us. We’ve brought in friends, welcomed old baggage, emotional affairs, and late nights on the internet to take the edge off. We’ve done our share of triangulating, so we won’t have to deal together.

But I’m not writing about those negative influences so much, except to say that anything that helps me stand without you, ought not be welcome in my life. I have experienced a pulling away from you, but I’ve also experienced the beauty of learning to walk with you, just the two of us leaning into one another.

There have been influences that have pushed me into you, made me want to wait for your timing or given me grace to take up the slack. Friends in loving marriages don’t stop pointing us in the right direction, and every once in a while, an older man or woman will step in and speak truth or pray over us. Those are rarities hard to forget.

Once I paid a babysitter so I could eat alone and read a book at a local restaurant. It was a marriage book. You know the one, and I pretty much hated it dearly. Nevertheless, I saw a couple walk in, both at least 80. The man had no idea where he was, and he smiled and shuffled. She held his arm, guarded his cane, and led him with her voice. He happily obeyed, kept his eyes on her. She napkinned at the table to clean it, and then walked to the line to order while he sat looking about the room, just as likely expecting a circus as a turkey sandwich.

As she walked forward, I caught her eye, the word “wife” on my book, and she recognized it immediately. With a hand on my table, she said, “I’m so happy to see you read that book. You keep reading. You keep working to love your husband.”

Then she looked up at him, the eyes behind her eyes were young, the eyes of a lover, and she said, “Do you see that man over there?” I said, “yes, I do.”

She said, “I wouldn’t trade one minute God has given me with him. That man has never stopped blessing me. I love him, and it’s all been worth it.”

How God gave me that moment, I don’t know. We both had tears in our eyes, both of us so proud to believe and be loved. It floored me.

I watched her get their food, and then she fed him from her plate.

Why aren’t there more positive influences, Seth? This is why I feel called, that woman in the restaurant, to tell the younger ones to keep going. Sometimes we need to hear it, we need it to be acknowledged that this isn’t easy, but that it’s worth it.

It’s only been 13 years for us and already worth it. One day if you shuffle me smiling into a restaurant, I don’t doubt for a minute, that you’ll love me more then than you do now. I don’t doubt it a bit. Don’t forget how much I love bacon and chocolate. I’ll take some on everything.

Love,

Amber

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Please join Seth, Joy, Scott, and me as we hold our marriages up to the light. Call your marriage what it really is. We believe that when we bless our own marriage, we bless the marriages of others. If you write a post, simply leave the link to your Marriage Letter post only, and then send your readers to this post for more encouragement from others. Thank you for joining us.

Follow theRunaMuck on Facebook for an update on future Marriage Letters topics in case we decide to write letters again. If we do, I would love to hear what topics you suggest.



Marriage Letters: On Loss

from weheartit

Dear Seth,

I thought it would be the sex or morning coffee or the children that showed us all about love, and indeed those things have, but most of all it’s been in the losing that we’ve come to see and understand the brevity of all this adored skin, the petals fallen from the bloom so quickly. We’ve lost dearest grandparents, experienced the broken dream of adopting a daughter, and suffered two miscarriages together. We’ve had our wrong definitions – of love and faith and church – ripped painfully (yet mercifully) from our death grips.

These are the reasons that I know the rest of our lives aren’t packaged with pretty paper and bows, all the left turns we’ve been asked to take when we knew for certain we’d be turning right. Marriage hasn’t been neat, and it won’t end that way either.

I have sat with and witnessed suffering at the end of three bodies, their souls crossing over the veil. I’ve felt the presence of God in literal death and also in the figuratives.  God has given proof of Himself every time we’ve experienced loss.

I tell our young married friends that until you’ve experienced loss, you have no idea how much you can love, how sitting in pain tightens your knot together, makes the roots reach for nourishment. Death does indeed have a temporary sting. But what death intends to set you back, God intends to move you forward.

We would never choose it, but we have been moved forward by loss, and I can’t say how grateful I am to be moving forward with you. I remember when I could recall every single time I’ve seen you cry. It’s been long enough now and we’ve broken down enough that I can’t recall all the tears anymore.

I love being muddled together with you. Thank you for enduring.

Amber

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I’m having a hard time keeping up, have that breathe-through-a-straw feeling, so today Joy of Joy in This Journey will be graciously hosting the marriage letters link-up. On the topic of loss, she and her husband, Scott, have authority, and I admire them both so much, how they never stop working it out.

Marriage Letters: I trust you because …

from weheartit

Dear Seth,

This letter to you has terrified me from the moment we chose the topics. Now finally writing it is like painting the invisible elephant that popped into my head when I started mulling it over: I’m not sure that I trust you.

Love and respect – we have that balance most days, but I’ve not yet found a commandment that says I’m to trust a soul. Not even you.

Not even you, and yet I mostly do in a very general way. I trust you, because you love me, not because you are strong or because of your resolve or good nature. I trust you because you are patient and kind. You erase my bad records. You keep faith. I trust you because we’ve endured so far.

All these words sound so simple – abstract, like asking what is love and then imagining rainbows and hickies on the collar bone, when really love can be the most glorious pain, second-by-second forgiveness, or selfless abandon.

Trust is quantifiable and not unconditional, something you can earn or misplace or lose altogether. Trust is a relatively fickle thing.

The way I’m wrestling now, how I’m having a hard time knowing the difference between trusting you and trusting IN you, I know it says something about my fear habit. This reveals that I gain some twisted sense of control by holding on to negative expectations toward you. Part of me lives like I’m bracing myself for the earth to shatter. I’ve hidden this even from myself.

You’ve hurt me before, and a great hurdle in my life has been to surrender fear of future hurt – and for that matter, fear of my own future failure. I know all this means that I have to trust God. I know that when I trust God alone, I certainly come to love you more.

Truly my expectations toward you are good, so good. And when I untwist things, I can say that I do indeed trust you because that kind of surrender is the sweetest part of our marriage, and I’m not sure it’s conditional at all.

Believing with you,

Amber

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Please do join Seth, Joy, Scott, and me as we hold our marriages up to the light. Call your marriage what it really is. 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, simply leave the link to your Marriage Letter post only, and then send your readers to this post for more encouragement from others. Thank you for joining us. Next week our topic is Enduring Loss Together.