Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Marriage, Part Two

Twelve years ago, I got a letter in the mail from a boy I had long thought was too handsome and confident to ever be interested in me.  It was a kind letter, an informative and thoughtful letter, and it invited a response.  I took a chance, and I responded.  :) And for months, we cautiously responded to words sent over oceans....  slowing giving our hearts to one another on pages of white printer paper and lined sheets torn from yellow legal pads or college notebooks.   

We were reminiscing about those days, and I realized that I am so thankful that I have more than words on a page to know my husband by.  Now, nine years into marriage, I know the contours of his hands, and the different tones of his deep voice.  I know exactly how he takes his morning tea, and I can (finally) fold his Carhaart pants with just the right creases.  The slow opening of our hearts was good.  But this day-to-day knowing one another is better.

As we prepared for marriage, we promised to keep a constant watch on the wall of our marriage.  To maintain closeness built by a thousand small strands of every day togetherness.  Sometimes I get annoyed when I hear someone say that "date night" is a requirement for a good marriage.  Date night is good. It's (as author Courtney Joseph says,) "the cherry on top of the marriage sundae."  But, nights out with your mate are not a requirement.   They are a blessing.  Personally, we go out together only a couple of times a year.  But, we cultivate closeness through daily togetherness.  Through connecting every evening with a kiss and the words, "Tell me about your day." Often Erik will say, "What made you laugh today?" I think that connecting with each other daily through affectionate touch and honest conversation is a key strand.  

One of the things that I feel has helped our marriage is that we are both pretty light on technology.  That sounds silly, but I think it's actually been a blessing to us.  Neither of us has an i-phone.  We don't have a laptop - just a desktop computer in our office. We don't have television.   Because we don't have those things, our time together is not distracted by the pull of them.  When the kids go to bed, we finish cleaning up the kitchen, gather misplaced toys and coats and shoes, and then, we spend our evening (short though it might be) talking, reading, and being together.  There are times when one of us needs to use the computer for a project - to prep the next day's schoolwork, or to write a meeting agenda for the elder board...   but our unspoken commitment is that we don't use the computer for recreation or amusement when we are together.  I am not saying that devices are bad.  I am sure that they are very helpful in many ways.  But, I do think, that for us, being device-free allows us to have more uncluttered time together. It keeps us undistracted in our time together. 

We also go to bed together nearly every night.  We are on the same sleep schedule, and I think that is a blessing to us, as well. We climb under the covers together, talk, snuggle, and turn out the lights at the same time.  It is lonely to climb into bed without my husband, and I am thankful that both of us are early to bed - although not always as early to rise as I wish we were!

We have grown to enjoy many of the same activities.  I had never cross-country skied before our marriage, and I chose to enter my husband's world and learn something new.  I am so glad that we are a Nordic family.  I love, love, love skiing, now.  Together, we also enjoy hiking, canoeing, camping.... all things I had done, but to a lesser extent than Erik had.  As I bent towards him in our recreational choices, I found I loved each of those things.  And Erik has bent, too.  He has discovered he really enjoys ice skating. And tea. He is way more of a connoisseur than I am these days. I think our marriage has been blessed by choosing to recreate together - by learning new things and joining in, rather than taking turns doing our own thing.   

As a wife, I find that our marriage is blessed when I a) put my husband's interests before my own, and b) make his priorities mine.  Sometimes I think I am doing something important with my time and resources, only to realize that Erik would prefer I handle things differently.  As an example, I have tried, at times, to be very rigid with our grocery budget, and I thought he would be blessed.  It turned out that he preferred a well-stocked refrigerator to my end of the month frugality.  My choice to make do with what we had because the budget for the month was gone made him feel that he was not providing for us, when in fact the money was available.  Recently I asked Erik to think through his top priorities for how I spend my time.  I want the way I order our days at home to be pleasing to him.  I also want to serve and give to him without expecting an even reciprocation. God calls us to lay down our lives, and sometimes I only want to do that if I am "getting" in return.  The truth is that he is consciously seeking to serve me, too, and both of us reap  greatly from sowing unselfishness.  But my motivation should be to love God and serve Him as I serve my husband and submit to his leadership.

Here is an area we don't do as well, and oh, how we wish we did! We have always talked about making it a priority, and it has continued to be a challenge.  Praying together. When we pray together - heads bend, hand-holding - we draw closer together and closer to God.  We have struggled to find the "right" time of day, and simply to be consistent.  Anyone have suggestions about how this works in your marriages?

West Yellowstone

 Last weekend, our family packed up coolers and bags and skis (read: our car was very FULL) and drove two and a half hours to stay in the little town of West Yellowstone.  Erik was signed up to race his second annual 50K ski marathon, while Elisa was excited to join other kiddos in a 2K. She has really blossomed in her skate ski ability this year, and racing has become fun for her.  She was proud to wear her West Yellowstone hat (bought on an earlier trip) bedecked with her new race pin.  

And the rest of us?  Well, thanks to the kind help of my friend Dancy (her husband is Erik's racing and training partner), I actually jumped in my first ever ski race - a 10K.   The funny thing about ski race distances....   the "good" skiers, the well-trained ones, the ones who have done this before.... well, they race big.  Like my husband.  So I joined a race filled with high-schoolers (Yup. They are faster than me), and a large group of older ladies and gentlemen who were (mostly) out for a Saturday morning jaunt.  :)  I knew that I was not going to compete against the 15 and 16 year-olds, so I just started at the back next to people who looked older than me, and then concentrated on slowly working my way up during the race.  It was actually really fun! I enjoyed just skiing on the varied terrain of the course, and paying attention to technique on the downhills, which are challenging for me. I beat my goal of finishing under forty-five minutes, and I didn't fall.  And, because all the fast 30 year-olds ski in the endurance races, I got a medal for my age group! I would love to race again next year, but maybe I'll be really brave and try the 25K! I can guarantee you there would be no medal.
 At the finish line.....  the kiddos played and played on a giant snowplow mound with their friends.  The two daddies came in at 2 hours and 25 minutes, and 2 hours and 30 minutes, so there was plenty of time running, skiing, and sledding on their bellies.  I love this photo of Raina with her buddy Jonathan.
 Sadie sledding with Olivia.
 Grinning at the start line after the start of Mom's race. Elisa and her friend James started their 2K five minutes after my race began, so sweet Dancy was in charge of getting them to their places while juggling six other kiddos.  She's pretty amazing. 
 At the start.
Cheering on Daddy as he comes to the finish.  He had a great race -- he improved his time by 20 minutes and he said he felt strong and ornery - which I took as a good thing. :) Doesn't he look handsome in his mid-nineties race suit? :)  I love that he is bright and easy to identify on the course.