Anniversary

It’s not a fairytale.

It’s dirty socks found on kitchen chairs, next to toilets and in the dog’s cage.

It’s six lunches needing packed.

It’s scooters left out behind parked cars and its cold showers.

It’s the sounds of little girl’s laughter creeping through closed doors well after bedtime.

It’s tears by the tub-full and grace upon grace.

It’s “I love you” spoken when least expected.

It’s the desire of a man and a woman to live out this vocation with sometimes painful honesty which means it’s acceptance that what was broken can’t be made whole again.

It’s the understanding that no amount of family meetings or vacations can bring back what six girls lost when their biological parents parted ways. But, it is the belief, that while not perfect, not a fairytale, it is a home.

 

 

 

 

 

Photographs

Her pictures are an incredible gift.

I have placed them throughout my home and in moments of struggle or frustration I find my eyes fixed on them.

Yesterday, amidst the busyness of life in our home, I was notified that our wedding was featured on Spoken Bride.

Robin’s photographs again appeared when I most needed the reminder.

There are some days more precious than words could ever describe; praise God for the Robin’s in this world who capture them with a camera.

http://www.spokenbride.com/blog/2018/5/16/heather-matthew

 

 

The Dress

It was wrapped in layers of tissue.

Purging led to its discovery.

The girls couldn’t have been more delighted by the appearance.

The dress a 22-year-old girl wore to wed her beau,

now worn by the next generation during a nighttime game of dress up.

They twirled and spun and looked more first communion than wedding day.

And as laughter filled the house, smiles in honor of the dance that brought us here.

 

 

 

 

The Husbands

They are an unexpected bonus.

Their wives, on the other hand, were a given.

I knew the minute we met, a thousand years ago as college freshman, that our friendship was forever. I don’t believe, at the time, I thought about how the men they would marry would participate in our story as well.

And now, fresh off a fortieth birthday celebration weekend in Florida with these ladies, I find myself reflecting on the unexpected gifts of our friendship- those men who love them.

I looked back through my library to find their photos. Not at all surprisingly there weren’t many pictures. Not because they aren’t present at our gatherings; but rather, because they are often the ones behind the camera, off wrangling toddlers or fixing worms to hooks on fishing poles.

These men are a constant presence.

The girls refer to them as their uncles.

Among the first to hold them upon their births;

participants in birthday parties, thanksgiving dinners, spring break adventures and the yearly Labor Day weekend reunion.

They’ve rough housed, fixed bike tires and encouraged silly behavior that their Momma would have never allowed.

The gifts extend beyond their influence on my girls.

I’ve sought their counsel on topics ranging from financial planning to the purchasing of new computers.

They’ve served as my cheerleaders, my running partners and my changer of light bulbs.

Most importantly they’ve encouraged and nurtured the friendship I share with their wives, never questioning my place in the lexicon of their family.

Thanks boys for loving your wives the way you do,

for being the incredible dads you are and

for being my friend.

I’m glad I’m on this journey with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declaration

“This,” said Reepicheep “is where I go on alone.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The envelope arrived thirty-six months after the civil courts had declared our marriage over.

The contents when read told me of another type of ending.

Fingers hover over the keypad now as I hesitate to type the words.

So much of this life I share, yet certain pieces find comfort, alone, in the quiet confines of the heart.

The journey that brought me the letter from the Catholic Diocese, didn’t go unsupported.

A small team of prayer warriors leant their words to the examination of how my love story began. They relived times long since forgotten.

I am forever grateful for their contributions. Their adjectives painted a picture of a young women I needed to recall.

Gratitude extends as well to the man whose life I shared, as he willingly participated, one more time, in our ending.

Declaration of Nullity.

It doesn’t mean the union never existed.

It doesn’t mean those girls weren’t born of love.

What was missing there can now be found in his time, not mine.

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Twenty years removed from the start of the story, a final gift,  forgiveness.

And in this we find our joy.

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/annulment/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition

It was that time.

Our yearly trek to the Christmas tree farm.

Determined this year to find the biggest one that these 4 sets of hands could cut down and haul back to the barn unassisted.

We hadn’t quite found a way to make it out earlier in the month when the weather was hovering in the low 50’s.

Instead, we managed to pick a 21 degree morning to put on our boots, pick up our saw and head out in search of holiday perfection.

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There was a pep talk first, which when looking at the picture makes one believe it was much more of the “stern warning” variety then the uplifting kind.

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Consensus was reached 20 minutes into our adventure;

after of course they all made their case for a tree they had “discovered”.

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Ultimately we did the happy dance when we found this guy.

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Then my phone died and with it the chance to document Momma on her side chopping down nine and a half feet of white pine goodness.

We warmed up with some pizza from our favorite pizza shop that’s right around the corner from the tree farm, then headed home to put her up.

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This year all 5’8 of Sid proved to be particularly helpful.

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She was the untangler of lights and Ellery Jane’s own personal ladder.

Audrey our comedic relief when Momma got frustrated with setback.

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Sometime around 4pm we stepped back to marvel at our doing.

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We’d done it again, together, our tradition.

Making memories, my team, my family.

 

 

 

This Joy

I heard his words.

This day, in this wooden pew, in this church in Cincinnati, Ohio, I listened.

As the priest told us how joy is not a state of mind but a condition we choose to live in;

a grace given by the father, all to often left unopened,

I nodded my head in agreement.

Looking to my right and left at the faces of those I cherished most in this world, I understood.

We do hard things.

We wrestle challenge.

But, each day, we make a choice to live in the grace he has provided.

The pain and the joy partners on this path.

“Momma are you crying”, she whispered in my ear.

“No tears today”, I whispered back;

just JOY.

from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis:

 

Special

You’re not married because of us Momma.

The night was drawing in when she spoke the words with a chuckle.

Some days she’s my twelve year old and others she still the 6 year old wanting me to kiss the boo-boo on her finger.

You’re not married because three girls is a lot Momma.

Why can’t this cocoon I have wrapped us in shelter my children from the language of the world?

The pause was long while I waited for the words to come.

I told her of how our hearts were broken after the divorce;

of how important it was to heal and protect them until the time was right for someone to enter in.

I told her of my belief that our God would pick just the right partner, friend and mentor to join our family when he felt the time was right.

I looked into those blue eyes and spoke of how special she was and whether I married or remained single it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with God’s plan.

I reminded her of our community, knitted together of friends and family. A community of people who live around the block and half way around the country and choose to participate in our lives simply because they want to be near her radiant light.

And then as I always do before bed, I kissed her forehead five times. Snuggled in tight, with the smell of her freshly washed hair on my pillow, I promised myself I would begin each day with a whisper in her ear, you are special.

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Waking up

Three years gone.

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I mark these anniversaries not out of sadness or out of celebration.

I mark them because it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I should remember where I was.

The young woman I left behind,

her fears and her failings.

I wasn’t escaping her, just growing into her next version.

If it hadn’t happened,

if the thread hadn’t been pulled on fourteen years of marriage,

I wouldn’t be here now.

I wouldn’t be the mom, the friend, the woman, I am today.

So today is marked, looking back with respect for the process that brought me here.

I thank God for the gifts of this journey.

I thank God for the gift of this life.

Happiness

Somewhere along the way I found it easier to write about the pain then to document the joy.

Pen to paper, words poured out in sadness.

An instant relief in the acknowledgement of the agony.

But, what am I to do when days of joy fall swiftly one after the other?

I’m not chasing the stages of grief. If I say it out loud will I jinx it?

You should know I am happy.

I make plans for my girls.

I dream about the man I love.

And, I am in awe of the life I’m living.

The words now typed I will trust.

Regardless of what happens next, today’s joy will always be mine.

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