Monday, August 9, 2010

Anniversaries

Today is a special day in a special summer. Jeff and I have been married 24 years. In June it was 25 years since we did not elope: our Un-Anniversary. Its also the year we've known each other for 32 years so we have now been together for 30 years. Its surreal. My friends at Bible Study were just talking about still feeling like they'll wake up and it'll be a dream: they'll still be teens and these will be someone else's kids they've been taking care of. They'll go home and get paid for the job. But this is our real life.

So to make it feel more real and intentional we celebrate milestones and anniversaries. Sometimes, like this year, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect romantic partner and have loads of time alone and happy we sabotage ourselves. This year we are back to having 3 little ones for our special day. The teens are off on retreat. Time alone is a difficult thing to find. Its easy to rush through our meal, talk discipline or chores or become frustrated by every child's interruption in our day.

But the truth is there is beauty in frustration as well. "Two become one" is our precursor to the joy of Heaven where we will have perfect communion with all of God's people and enjoy the fullness of His Presence. Our souls ache for that union and in our spouse we almost reach it, yet it remains ever elusive. Even with such an open, sharing and ever listening spouse as I've been blessed with there are always things we don't know. He will never comprehend what it is to be clumsy just as I will never comprehend what it is to be coordinated. I can't fathom that there are 100's of different weights of paper and 100's of values of white. He can't understand why I don't know if I've used the 'good' paper or not when I print. No matter how close we grow toward each other there will always be a distance to cross, at least until we reach our heavenly goal.

I promised before I would blog about our 16th anniversary. We call it our Mortar Anniversary and everyone we've known had a hard time that year. Our first was silly. The seven year itch was easy. Ten worked out well despite my being exhausted from little kids. Twenty was a really special one because we knew we needed time away and made it happen. But 16 is tough.

It was just a couple years after we'd been able to move to my hometown and we were starting to make new friends. We committed to staying put so we decided to spend the summer doing the big fix the house need: rebuilding the foundation. The house was built - best guess -in 1890. (Paperwork starts in 1900 but dated work in the attic and basement say 1890.) For a Victorian it has a deep basement. The friend we'd bought it from had started the foundation and another friend taught us what to do. The number one rule is knowing how much back foundation you can dig out before you must refill. If the hole was bigger than 6 feet in any direction we risked having the weight of the house come down.
It was a long month of work. First were the two weekends outside the house doing the areas under the porches. Hot, cramped work for my husband especially as there were so many things I wasn't strong enough to do. Then we took his vacation week to start the basement. we'd spend an our digging out the bad mortar, saving the good stones and bricks, trying not to damage what was still holding well. Then came cleaning the dusty mess and mixing an 80 pound bag of mortar. Next came putting the wall back together, trying to use enough mortar but not too much, using each stone strategically, going slow enough to build straight but be mindful of not letting the mortar set before we were done. Then clean up, lunch and another round before dinner and a beer.

But at the same time two of our new friends who were also married 16 years that summer began a divorce. They had appeared to be a perfect couple: handsome, always together, always at their kids events, serving Eucharist side by side.  But the foundation of respect, faithfulness and love was one sided and crumbling.

It really shook Jeff and I. In the hours of work and sweat, side by side in the quiet basement, we talked, and talked, and talked. Carefully we picked at the mortar of our relationship. Each touchstone event was pulled out, cleaned off, examined and then put back in its place with respect and gratefulness. The mortar holding them together is the love we both have for the shared history it gives us. The foundation holds up more than just ourselves. It gives our children a safe, secure place to build a future.

One week was not enough to finish the task. The next week I would do section myself during the day and he would help me do a section after supper. I was strong. I could lift and mix an 80 pound bag of mortar and keep at it all day. My husband was strong. He could work all day, trusting me to make progress, and then help me all evening. I will always love having a summer project to do with him. 16 is tough but in so many ways it is the most valuable anniversary we have had. We strengthen our knowledge of each other, our commitment, our faithfulness, our joy in being in love in a far deeper way than renewing our vows on our 10th or having a second honeymoon for our 20th.

I am so grateful for this Sacrament. Grateful for this Blessed ring I wear each day. Grateful despite no longer being strong enough to lift a bag of mortar-- when I needed to I did the work and did not shirk all the responsibility away. I valued my marriage and pray I always will.

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