During a pandemic? During a second shut down?

Yes and yes.

Life does not stop because of crisis, or rules, or sickness, or personal issues, or job losses, or stir crazy children, or school closures, or whatever. Life still happens. Importantly, relationships still happen. Most importantly, the calling and commands of God do not change (or completely evaporate) because of circumstances.

I am a wife. I am called and commanded to honor my husband.
Nothing going on has changed that.
I am a mother. I am called and commanded to teach, train, instruct, discipline, love, and encourage my children.
Nothing going on has changed that.
The fact that I am a mother, has also not negated the fact that I am a wife, and that the calling and command to honor my husband came before and trumps that of the calling and commands in regards to my children.

My relationship with my husband is crucial in raising our children, and my relationship with my husband takes precedence over the relationships with my children.

So, I need to take the time to keep investing in my relationship with my husband. I need to keep dating him.

Every couple is different. So finding what works for each couple will look different.
Some couples like to go out, do something different, explore the outdoors, do something service oriented, cuddle with a movie, buy each other sentimentally significant gifts, and so many other things.
For us, its talking. Yes, this pair of introverts loves spending hours together just talking. Talking together it how we date. It’s how we dated (literally, so many hours of college were spent just sitting in the Chick-fil-a parking lot talking, letting our food get cold, and our sodas watery).

So, maybe in a pandemic, or under certain shut-down/stay-at-home orders, formal dates are challenging. We love good food, so that’s been a change for us, not looking forward to that one time every few months to try some yummy food at a restaurant.
But, we have tried making new things at home, and ordered out (thank you Door Dash!) a good bit.
We like to give each other “just because” gifts. We can’t do anything real fancy, but my husband came back from the store last night with cranberry juice, my absolute favorite! So, you know, it doesn’t have to be fancy to be special. 🙂

I will say that although talking is a favorite for us, communication is not key to every relationship. Communication is essential to any relationship. There are no exceptions here. The more significant and central the relationship, the more important communication is.

No matter what relationship you are in: married, dating, single, child, parent, co-worker, grandparent, grandchild, teacher, student, friend, boss, employee. Keep investing in it, keep pursuing it, keep talking, keep doing that thing that connects you, keep working through those hard things that you butt heads over, keep forgiving, keep saying sorry, keep learning, keep teaching, keep being kind, keep relationship-ing.

Soli Deo Gloria

Keep going

My last post was very emotional, and in many ways I still am in a heightened emotional state.

I had a miscarriage.

Since then, I have:

  • Been on a little family vacation to the mountains – very encouraging and refreshing
  • Watched some new-to-me movies/shows – Knives Out, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and Hamilton. All of which I loved!
  • Had a much needed and long overdue girls night with my sister
  • Finished draft three and began draft four of my book
  • Celebrated the 4th of July with BBQ and fireworks

I’m still a little raw, and sad. Yet, I am so encouraged by my husband, and my children. (See above: my youngest snooping on my coffee and my “phuun-eh”, a.k.a. “phone”)

I think that losing one baby has made me hold everyone in my life a little closer (all my family, not just my kids).

I have had three smooth, healthy pregnancies, and have three beautiful children. I have a wonderful, sweet, lovingly supportive husband. I have a wonderfully caring family. I have dear friends.

As my life, emotions, and mind are comforted and soothed by these precious people, the balm for my soul has been the Scriptures.

In the depths of very strong emotions, the very hardest thing for me is to sit and read. My God knew that, and what has been peppering my heart has been all the passages I have memorized over the decades.

Isaiah 54:10 (my “life verse”, memorized in NIV) – ” ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, but my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who had compassion on you.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Philippians 4:6-7 – “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Isaiah 53:3-4 – “… man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrows…”

Psalm 56:8 – “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”

John 11:32-35 – “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” 

The most comforting, mind boggling, wonderful, and amazing-but-true things about having all these passages (and so many others) come to mind is that these passages are all talking about the same God.
The same Jesus who wept over the death of his dear friend, and over the sorrow that death had on his sisters, is the same God who keeps count of my tossings, bottling my tears, is deeply acquainted with all kinds of griefs and sorrows, so much so it is a title of sorts: man of sorrows.
He’s the same God who has good plans of hope for his people, who promises to guard my heart with his perfect peace when I keep my mind on him and not on myself and not on my worries.
He is a faithful, steadfast, loving, patient, merciful, and unfailing even in the face of our broken, fallen, fractured, deadly world.

Because of who God is, what he has done throughout history, and in my life in particular, I can keep going.

Soli Deo Gloria!

All Is Bright

The holidays have come and gone, and oh my goodness they were wonderful and crazy. Here’s what went down:

Everyone arrived by Christmas Eve, and the crazy, fun, crowded, and busy family time began. A HUGE surprise was that cousin Avery brought a girl with him. A girl. Like a not-related-to-us girl. Like a girl-met-at-university-and-I-want-you-to-meet-her girl. Auntie T didn’t even know “the girl” existed until they showed up at Avery’s university to pick him up! She was pretty upset. It got a bit awkward when we realized that she would have to share a room with the rest of us girl cousins. Ellie was not happy, she was extremely sassy when they got here, way more than her usual sassy.

It worked out okay though. First of all, the girl’s name is Megan. She’s from California, but is going to school at Avery’s university. She’s very nice, though she dresses very colorfully. Cammie and I have caught Avery and Megan several times together under the mistletoe.

Now, we are all enjoying our presents. Oh, what a plethora (Father says that’s a better word than “a lot”) of presents! I think this is the most fun, seeing my cousins playing with their new toys, wearing their new clothes, and all using their new things. Ellie is walking around like a peacock, showing off all her new things, practically strutting. Cammie and I burst out laughing every time we see her prancing around and glancing at herself on every reflective surface (windows, clean tables, and mirrors).

The day after Christmas, Father and I have a tradition: We get up early, bundle up, take a thermos full of coffee for him and tea for me, grab our cameras, and “go for a wander”. We walk and take pictures, but only a few, because we have a rule that we can only take a picture of something truly beautiful. Before taking the picture, we must explain our reasoning to the other. Why is this picture of something truly beautiful. He always finishes our walk by taking a picture of me and telling me that he “must”,and “because there is nothing in the world more beautiful to me than you, Marie”. 

I asked him this year, why he started our tradition of wandering. He said that he didn’t; Mother did.

Father said that when he and Mother first got married, they didn’t have money to go anywhere special for holidays, or any other special day for that matter, so they would go walk, talk, and take pictures. When she got sick, and couldn’t walk as much anymore, Father started taking me on walks. This is how most of our traditions started, with Mother.

Our walk-wandering is probably my favorite Christmas tradition. More than presents.

The picture I took today was of a grey field, taken at a slightly crooked angle, and full of sheep. Normal, everyday beauty.

New Years is right around the corner. Father says we will be heading to the States after New Years and probably staying there for a while. That will be different. I know America is big, but we go around the world all the time, so staying in one country for a while is really different for us.

Mother’s side of the family is in America, so maybe that is why? Father really isn’t explaining much to me. He’s almost being secretive about it. It makes me nervous when he does this. I don’t like unknown things. Father probably thinks he’s being fun or that I’ll love the surprise, but I just want to know so I can talk to him about it and think it over and bond with the idea and…. I just want him to tell me!

Family and Holiday Time – Father and I

November is gone, and December is here! Family is arriving at Grandma and Grandpa Miles’ cottage house, making it feel full and festive. The Holidays are here, it’s Family Time. Father has two brothers and a fraternal (which means they look nothing alike) twin sister, and they will all be here by Christmas day. I love being with all the cousins. I am right in the middle age-wise, and I’m “the American cousin” (even though I’m really half) so they think I’m extra fun. I think it’s because of my accent.

Cousin Sid keeps walking around the house saying “Christmas time’s a-comin’!” in an absolutely horrible American accent, but it makes everyone laugh, so he just keeps doing it. He’s such a clown. 

Right now, it’s a couple weeks away from Christmas, so not everyone is here yet. Maybe I should explain who everyone is and which cousins go with what Aunt and Uncle… Yeah. I’ll do that first.

The oldest in Father’s family is Uncle Wesley. He is married to Aunt Mel, and they have two kids, Sid and Cammie. Sid is 16 and Cammie is 11, and is the closest to me in age of all the cousins, so we play together the most.

Uncle Will is the next oldest, and he is not married. He loves all us cousins so much, and he couldn’t stand watching his siblings be parents and not have any children himself, so he adopted Marcus about three years ago. Marcus is 7 now.

Auntie T, Father’s twin sister, and Uncle Vin have four kids, Avery who is 20 now, Ellie who is 17 and always sassy, Gemma who is 12, only three years older than I am, and baby Bert who is 5 now. Bert was a happy surprise to the family. Babies are so fun! I also learned last year that Avery is not Uncle Vin’s son, but when Auntie T and Uncle Vin got married, Uncle Vin adopted Avery, and since Avery was only two or three at the time Uncle Vin is really the only daddy Avery has ever known.

When everyone is here it is super crowded! All the girl cousins have to share one room, and all the boy cousins have to share one room. The parents all get their own rooms, except Uncle Will, who gets the couch. 

“That’s what I get for not getting married!” He says every year, very dramatically.

It’s not too bad though, the family room with the couch is separate from the hall, which leads to all the bedrooms, and from the kitchen, so we can maneuver (which means move carefully) around the house in the morning and at night without waking him up. Avery has offered to take the couch several years in a row now, but I don’t think Uncle Will much likes the idea of sharing a room with Sid, Marcus, and baby Bert. Father gets his own room, because he and Mother used it together, and no one wants to make him change now he’s alone.

Right now, it’s just Father, me, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Wesley, Aunt Mel, Sid, and Cammie, which sounds like a lot all listed out like that, but actually it feels spacious! Sid’s in a room on his own, and Cammie and I are sharing just the two of us (almost like we’re sisters). Sometimes we do pretend to be sisters and she talks with an American accent, (which actually sounds very good, unlike Sid) and I will talk with a British accent. We have fun, though every now and then we need “me time”. Aunt Mel suggested it, I think because Cammie is getting “pre-teen-y” and moody. Aunt Mel says it happens to everyone and Cammie is very sensitive to it. Aunt Mel usually swoops in an institutes (meaning put into place) “me-time” before too much friction (another word for conflict) starts between us, and we give each other space for a little while. I think Aunt Mel is very wise (I don’t think I need to explain that word).

Cammie is a lot like Father. She is creative and thoughtful, talkative but not outgoing (Aunt Mel had to explain that word to me, I’m not sure I get what it is, I just know what it isn’t…). Cammie is generally sweet and friendly, but can get “passionate” (as Aunt Mel calls it) when she disagrees with someone. 

Sometimes, when Cammie needs space, I go outside with Sid. Since he’s a boy, he doesn’t really like to sit inside and talk like Cammie, but he and I will play outside together for hours, at least until Avery gets here. Sid idolizes (also a new word I learned from Aunt Mel, it means you put all your attention toward that thing or person) our grown-up cousin Avery. 

Other times, I will go sit with Grandma or Grandpa and we will read a book out loud together, or I’ll tell them stories about places and people Father and I visited.

Tomorrow, Grandma and Aunt Mel are taking Cammie and me into town. We are getting last minute shopping done, and treating ourselves to some Christmas treats. We always go out and have a Christmas luncheon with tea, and cookies, and everything! Usually we wait until Aunt T and the gang arrive, but this year they are coming exactly on Christmas Eve (instead of on an earlier day like other years) because of Avery’s university schedule. 

The rest of the year Father and I are dashing around the world, but during the holidays Father stops everything and just enjoys “family time”. I love it. Father says this coming year we will be slowing down. I don’t know what that means, I hope it means more family time, because I would love that. At the same time, that makes me nervous. I’ve been traveling around with Father all my life. When Mother was still here, we traveled as a little family. Now, it’s Father and I, as a smaller family. I love traveling, but having a home might be nice too. I’m not sure, I’ve never really had a place to call home. Just family, which is good too. Just different.

The dark day – Father and I

The holidays are coming, and for as far back as I can remember, the holidays have always started on November 12th, Mother’s birthday. When I was little, this day started the festive season with a bang, so much fun and festive-ness. It was wonderful.

Now, instead of starting the holiday season with joy, it starts with darkness. 

This year we are spending the holidays with Father’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Miles, in England. They live in an old house out in the English country. I call it The English Farm House, but they call it The Cottage. Either way it is beautiful. It has a huge garden with growing things everywhere! Though, right now many of the trees are leafless and twiggy. 

None of the relatives are here yet. It’s just Father and I, Grandma and Grandpa.

When I wrote the above, I was going to bed and it wasn’t the 12th yet, but I can’t sleep…

It is about 1 am right now. Officially her birthday. I went to bed at about 9, but I just lay there, thinking of her. Her eyes. Her smile. Her necklace with the gold heart and the tiniest of diamonds resting in the middle of it. I wear it everyday, so I will never forget her.

I will never forget her. She’s Mother.

But I realized, as I was laying in bed, that there are things about her that I am forgetting.

What did her voice sound like? What did her arms feel like when she hugged me? How tall was she again? What was her favorite Christmas song? What did her singing voice sound like?

I don’t cry often anymore, but that’s when I cried.

I’m starting to forget details.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I was only 6. There are so many things you think to remember when you are 6. There are so many other things you wish you had asked. There are so many more things you can remember now, that you were too little to remember at 6. 

I am so filled with darkness. It’s not sadness really, it’s more like emptiness, like a room you used to go into all the time is now dark and unused. It’s been four years. So the really deep sad feeling is more numb now. But there is still darkness. Father feels that darkness too, I think. He won’t talk about it though.

Tomorrow morning is the morning I will not see him. He will spend it in his room. He will lay in his bed, covers pulled up to his scruffy chin (he’s growing out his beard), and just lay there. Eyes closed. If he opens his eyes, he will cry. He’s too British for that.

Grandma will bring breakfast and coffee to his room, and sit with him. She will not say anything. Everything has been said, but she says, “He should not be alone”. So, she will sit with him until he gets up. She will stay with him all day if need be. 

I will not go sit with him, the darkness gets too dark when we look at each other.

Now I am alone, downstairs on the couch with the quilt off my bed, writing in my diary.

Grandpa found me last night on the couch. He made me hot chocolate. He said that dark days are okay to have, as long as we don’t spend them alone. Alone, the darkness will swallow us up. Alone, the cold living room would have swallowed me without Grandpa there, and the hot chocolate. He started the fire and sat with me until I fell asleep. I woke this morning still on the couch, Grandpa was still with me, asleep in his easy chair.

We had breakfast together, just Grandpa and I. He told me to get dressed, and we’ll get out of the house for a little while. There’s some sun coming through the clouds today, and he said a lamb was born a few days ago. I’d like to see the lamb, and the walk in the sun with Grandpa will be good. 

Dark days need people, sunshine, good food, and love. Lots of love.