Nineteen lord...

I stood before her, nineteen years ago today, and promised.  She did the same.  By the authority invested in him and with tears in his eyes, my minister-father pronounced us husband and wife. We kissed, turned to face God and those witnesses, and stepped into the rest of our lives.  It was a June afternoon in Arkansas and hotter than sin.  We were just kids, I tell

A lot of folks these days write their own wedding vows.  As a pastor, I used to encourage couples to if they wanted to; if I were still a pastor, I wouldn't.  Those old fashioned vows are hard to beat: for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish... There's a lot of space between those words of extremes.

We were driving home last night after dinner with some friends and our middle girl was singing that Dixie Chicks song - wide open spaces/room to make a big mistake.  The song specifically speaks of a young girl heading off from parents and the familiar to make her way.  But as good country songs do, there's something there for everybody.  Today, celebrating nineteen years of marriage, I think that line our daughter crooned is a pretty good one for husbands and wives.

I've officiated at a wedding that was decorated to the nines and Ken and Barbie didn't last a year.  I've also stood before two giggly teenagers in a trailer park and spoke the words and crossed my fingers and last I heard, they were still giggling and married.  My lord.  Why did one fizz while the other still giggles?  Best I can tell - Grace & space: the Grace that keeps this world & room to make mistakes both big and small.  I've made more mistakes in my marriage than Washington D.C. has lonely people, but so far, by the Grace of God & Meredith, there has been space to make them.  

That good Franciscan, Richard Rohr, says the only way men learn anything after about the age of 30 is by way of failure.  Up to that age men need some wins/successes, but after that, success has nothing to teach; failure, however, does.  I believe the same holds true for marriage.  Some early days, maybe even years, of everything turning daisy is good and needed. But after a while, when the flower fades and the grass withereth, failure is the only teacher. And the question in those days, weeks, months, even years is, well, is there room for this?  The vows fashioned of old say as much.  Meredith and I are committed to wide open spaces; it's hard but most things worth anything are hard.  I may end up one of these days in front of a trailerhome sitting in a lawn chair...I'll take it, as long as she's in other chair, giggling.

Some of you out there read books and such.  My two favorite marriage books are Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and The Maytrees by Annie Dillard.  They are books of great space...and amazing grace.

Meredith, I love you.  And that statement about our doublewide was just for giggles...maybe...       




  1. The places of failure are where Grace and grace are most needed. We are a few years behind you, but no strangers to the tough times that would have undone many. But vows are vows, and I've only made one in my life. I vowed HIM that I would love him.

  2. Happy Anniversary, John. So much of your post rings true--we were kids as well in June '90, and exchange a hot summer's day in AR with the mezzanine in the Boulderado, and I think you'd witness the same feelings and hormones, of course.

    This probably doesn't make any sense, but I fell more deeply in love with my husband over the birth of each child, and over his walking through mom's death with me. The kid thing is understandable. But seeing him weep and just say, "I just feel so sorry, Gretchen. I'm so sorry for you" while we were in that hospital room together undid me. She was not an easy woman to love, though I did, fiercely. And was particularly jealous of his presence in my life. Yet he wept. He took care of details. He paid so that her lights could be turned back on and we could host family in her home for her funeral. He wept for me, John.

    Grace and space, indeed.

    God bless you both. And well done on the sitter thing.

  3. Grace and space, indeed.

    I love you, too.

    And if we should end up in a double-wide (for richer, for poorer) I'd try my best to giggle.

  4. Dear God,
    Please let John write and sell lots of books so that there'll be no need for a doublewide...but Lord should they have to root there anyway...may there be giggles all around.


    :) Happy Anniversary to an incredible both teach me so much through your writing, your love for each other and by being my friend!

    Love to you both and a SUPER exciting night!

  5. now I understand all the more why you dig Stegner's book.
    And as I right now am walking beside a man married nearly 47 years, as his wife lay in a coma and will possibly die in the next few months, the tales I've heard of their marriage echoes your "grace & space."

  6. they say down under, "Good on 'ya!!!" I say from Parker, "Praise be to God!!!"

    ...did you make it to the cafe?

    ...are you starting a trailer park in Monument? If so, save a space for us.

  7. Thanks to you all for your well-wishes. We went out last night and had a wonderful evening together.

    I wrote about the traditional vows and then last night witnessed a wonderful version of untraditional ones in the film Away We Go...there's a scene on a trampoline where the main characters exchange vows that is incredibly packed with grace & space...the film is prickly though, so beware...


  8. Happy anniversary, John.

  9. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Lovely. God grant you and Meredith many years.

  10. Agreeing in prayer with Tiffany that there will be no need for a slab of cement to be poured in duplicate width in your future.

    My husband and I were recently discussing the changes that have progressed with marital vows these days. Some barely vow anything at all...they simply express the happiness and feelings of the moment.

    We have known these wide open spaces within our own marriage. The most beautiful moments are when we choose to snuggle in close to one another although there is space to spare.

    May success surprise you with a few more lessons! I believe the best is yet to come for both you & Meredith!