Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why the Cowardly Lion Never Married: An Open Letter

May 28, 3014

Dear Bonnie and Jared,

Your wedding is a mere month away! It is hard to  believe that the time has finally arrived for you to take your vows as husband and wife. I have no doubt that you will be very, very happy in your marriage because I know that God has planned your union. In the meantime, there are a few loose ends to tie up. This is one of them.

Several weeks ago, you gave Dad and I a copy of the "Parent Questionnaire" from your pre-marital counseling handbook. We have worked together to fill it out, trying our best to give you what little wisdom we might have to offer from our many years together. But one question stumped us: What one memory or time would we choose to represent the essence of our marriage? It was a tough one; 38 years have brought a myriad of experiences our way. Some good, some not so good. We filled out the rest of the survey with no problem, but the answer to this one eluded us.

Finally, though, we have found that one particular moment in time, in the span of 38 years, that stands out above the rest. And here is that moment, far too rich in memory to fit onto the few lines on the questionnaire, and far too important to share with just the two of you.

On our 25th anniversary, as Bonnie will recall, we had a lovely service to renew our vows and commemorate our commitment to one another. It was special for many reasons, the celebration of our silver wedding just one. It was nine months after Ron's horrific car accident on March 1 of 2000, and Ron had been home and back into the hospital three times. He had undergone 8 major surgeries and had barely survived. He limped from the displacement of his hip, and he had lost almost 50 pounds from problems with his pancreas. But he was alive, and we wanted to celebrate the fact. The kids--Dennis, Bonnie, and Allen--helped us plan a wonderful party and invited everyone we knew.

Ron and I renewed our vows in front of Pastor Lou Tripler; Lou commented on what a miracle it was that Ron had survived, that our marriage had survived. We felt, at that time, as if we had indeed come through the fire. We could not have known that the next 14 years would demand even more of us and our commitment to one another.

Each of the kids did or said something special at the service. Dennis painted a family portrait, the one that hangs in the dining room and in which Allen resembles Austin Powers. Bonnie sang a song and let us know how much her family meant to her. But it was Allen, only 14 at the time, who gave us the word that has come to epitomize our marriage, and that we think should define any marriage.

"Mom and Dad," our youngest said on that day, "from the two of you, I have learned the meaning of the word 'courage.' You have survived Dad's accident and you have stayed together and you have kept all of us together because you have courage. And because you have shown me what courage means, I know that I can have courage, too."

So, we can describe our entire marital experience in one word: Courage. It takes courage, dear ones, to be married and to stay married. It is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to take on an unknown future, full of possible hills and valleys, to continue holding onto each other's hands and trudging forward, to not get lost in the dark of night. It takes courage to continue to love when love means changing bandages and sitting through surgeries and visiting emergency rooms. It takes courage to both lose and gain what marriage brings.

Joshua 1:6 has this to say about courage: Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Often, we think that courage belongs to heroes and soldiers, but courage allows us to fight against the powers that would destroy us and our relationship. It allows us to trust fully in God and the partner he has given to us and to know that, even when times get tough--and they will--, he wants to bless us and our marriage.

I Chronicles 22:13 goes onto say this:Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfill the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed. It is often hard NOT to be discouraged or dismayed! There are so many, many things that can strive to destroy a marriage. As it is a sacred covenant with God, Satan would much prefer marriage not exist! We must remain strong and of good courage to forward God's kingdom AND receive the blessings that a marriage can bring.

So, dear ones, have courage. Take courage from one another. Take courage from God. We hope that, in some way, our life and our marriage has shown you what you really need to make a success of your own union:


Monday, May 26, 2014


Having adult children, particularly if they live at home, does not guarantee restful nights. Both over-20s were out late last night, Bonnie with her fiance at a birthday celebration and Allen at work. I wasn't worried--not really--until 1AM rolled around without nary a word from either of them. Now, Bonnie in particular is wont to call me about,well, anything, but Allen is more forgetful of his cellphone. I'd already headed up to bed and attempted sleep, but the day's cleaning had kicked up my asthma and breathing wasn't going so well.

Enter Bonnie, arriving home around 1:15. I'd moved her phone charger in an attempt at organizing a small space with too many people, and that was the first thing she said: "Hey, where's my phone charger?" Hello to you, too, my dear. And, oh, did I wake you? My kids believe I require no sleep.

A few minutes of chichat later with my about-to-be-married daughter--I'm not really losing a daughter, I'm gaining a bedroom--and I was ready to try sleep again. Try being the operative word.

Ron woke me up a scant 45 minutes later to tell me he thought he heard my cell phone ring. Truth is, Ron could sleep through the eruption of Mt. St. Helens', but I checked the phone anyway, then tried calling Allen's cell. Which I heard ringing in his room. Not good. Just in case you haven't figured it out by now, I keep my cell phone on at night. The reason should be obvious; search and rescue missions often happen after midnight. Ron continued to worry about Allen and, just like magic, the land line rang.

It was Allen's co-worker, Ethan, who is more often than not in need of a ride home. Allen had a blow-out on Baltimore Pike and had no spare. Figures.

Ron is not so great after midnight--he's kind of like a gremlin--so Bonnie and I headed out into the now 3AM gloom, recounting the days she'd worked at Springfield Mall. I'll give her this, she was more concerned than grumpy; spending a whole day with Jared, afore-mentioned fiance, mellows her out. We found Allen without too much trouble, lectured him on the necessity of carrying both a spare tire AND his cell phone, and called it a day. Er, night. We set our alarms for 7AM--the time Allen said the Mobil station across the street opened--and got a little shut-eye. Very little.

The three of us jumped up at 7AM. Perhaps "jump" only really applied to me since none of my kids are what you could call morning people, but there were at least vertical by 8AM. Bonnie headed off to meet Jared for church and I began Part II of Rescue Allen Mission XXV. Okay, I don't really know that I've rescued him that many times, but it feels about right.

Would it surprise you if I said that the repair station did not open until 10? Allen was. Rather than waste one and a half hours, we trucked back down Baltimore Pike into Media, where we found a Just Tires just opening and the additional benefit of a McDonald's with tea and Egg McMuffins across the street. Long story short, this part of it, Just Tires had the right size.

But--and here's where the whole thing gets a bit sticky--we didn't have the rim. Oops. You'd think with that many rescue missions under my belt I would have thought of that, but even my brain has trouble functioning on less than four hours of sleep.

Back to the Springfield Mall parking lot. We had a jack but no handle, although Allen did his darnedest to make due with a screwdriver. I, ever helpful, texted Bonnie so she could know how much fun she was missing. She put me on speaker while Jared tried to offer advice. In the meantime, Allen had convinced the guy at the now-open Mobil station to come on over and help us. After explaining to a mall security guard that we weren't attempting to jack the car, we thought we were on Easy Street.

We were wrong. We were actually on Bumpy Drive because the Mobil guy with the tools wasn't having any better luck than Allen. Finally, he suggested that Allen drive his car--flat tire and all--over to the station. I followed Allen with my hazard lights on, making mean faces at the people who honked their horns and made rude gestures. I am not given to road rage, but I'm a mom with very little sleep. Don't mess with me.

We got to the station, a little shaken but in one piece, but the party had just begun. The station guy--never did get his name but he told us he preferred skiing to mechanics--couldn't get the nuts off the tire, even with his nifty machine. We might, he said, need new nuts and studs. My wallet started aching.

I went in search of a cold drink and a bit of prayer. By the time I returned, the situation had improved a bit and slowly but surely the nuts were coming off, rust and all. Ski guy needed to let the machine cool off in between nuts. So, a mere four hours after Rescue the Sequel began, we were good to go.

Here is where I'd like to leave you with a wonderful analogy between tires and life, or the care and feeding of adult children, or at least warn you to keep a functioning jack in your car. But I think the lesson is much simpler than that. Ski guy went out of his way to help us. I went out of my way to help Allen.

Life is, after all, a journey. We need to help each other along.

And keep our cell phones handy.