Archive for July, 2011

When my wife was making her decision to choose to stay married, and asking me to come back to her, one of the things she said was, “You know me so well.”  She was referring to my knowing what she liked and how to take good care of her.  That only happens in relationships that have lasted a long time.

To know another person deeply and completely is part of the very nature and fabric of what marriage is supposed to be.  It’s supposed to be for life, and within that commitment and unconditional love should be the freedom to fully reveal yourself to another.  Each person should be able to know and trust the other fully, and be accepted and loved for who they are.

Like so many things, this knowledge, over a long period of time, can be either a strength or a weakness.  One weakness is that we can assume we know all there is to know about the other person and no longer make the effort to try to learn more about what is going on inside him or her.  Another is that people can feel that they no longer have much to talk about, because they have already disclosed everything about themselves to their partner.

We found that we could see how well we know each other as a strength in our relationship.  For us, it has become a source of fun and joy that we can finish each other’s sentences and that we often know what the other is thinking without either of us having to say a word.  Rather than see it as boring and old, we see it as some of the glue that binds us so tightly together.

Just the other day, we were invited to lunch by a lady who worked at the school with us last year.  At one point, my wife and I were talking about something and the other lady made the comment that we had obviously been together for a long time.  We hadn’t realized it, but she was hearing a conversation that made no sense to her, yet she could see that we were understanding each other perfectly.

One day, shortly after we had gotten back together, my wife and I were in the car and I had the air conditioner on.  My wife reached up and flipped one of the vents all the way up and I asked her, “Is it too cold?”  Then I immediately starting laughing and answered for her, because in that instant, I realized that I already knew exactly what she was going to say.  She would have said, “No, I just don’t like it blowing in my face.”

The reason I knew this was that we had been having that exact same exchange for 14 years.  What made me laugh was that it had taken me until then to realize it.  For almost a decade and a half, she had flipped up the vent, and I had asked the same question and received the same answer.  I guess the reason it clicked that day was that, having been apart and then reunited, we were in the unique position of having all that body of knowledge about each other, but living in the dynamic of a brand new relationship, where we were really paying close attention to each other.

Since then, we have been “getting to know each other” all over again and celebrating both new things we are learning about each other, and things we already know.  When we went to Eureka Springs recently, we found out what each other’s favorite candy bar was.  We each thought we already knew, but that was based on old information that had changed over the years.  It’s fun discovering that there are still things to learn, and it really helps eliminate the tendency to take each other for granted, or get into a rut with our relationship.

About a week ago, we were in the car and my wife said to me, with affection in her eyes, “Who else could I say fried tickers to and would know what I mean, or make the car sound and would laugh every time?”  She recognized while we were apart that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, and the unknown isn’t as pleasing as the one who knows you so well and loves you completely.

Love is a verb.  Yes, that can be a cliché, but there’s a lot of truth where that statement comes from.  To paraphrase a speaker I once heard, love makes a much better verb than noun.  Love as a noun is something people have never quite been able to grasp.  What is it?  It’s too mysterious and too abstract to function well as a noun.

As a verb, love becomes visible and tangible.  You can see it, feel it, experience it, and do it.  In fact, you have to, if your “love” is ever going to be anything more than a feeling.  Hear me on this; love is something you make, and to make something requires action.

Mort Fertel’s “marriage fitness” concept was one of the things I used to save my marriage.  It was a powerful idea to me, being a fitness person, that you can “make love” by doing actions like giving gifts, using kind words, spending fun time together, and building another person up.  When my wife said she only felt friendship toward me, but didn’t feel love anymore, I “made love” where there was no feeling.  I built those feelings in the same way an athlete builds muscle or stamina.

It took time and it took committment.  It was a day after day, week after week, month after month process.  A 90 pound weakling doesn’t go to the gym two or three times and expect to look in the mirror and see a muscular physique.  It takes work, but that person can and will build muscle if he stays with it and does what it takes.

I know lots of people who talk about wanting to be more fit, but they don’t do the things you have to do to be fit.  They make excuses instead of dong the work.  No one has time, but some people make the time.  When they start, they don’t stick with it.  They fail to follow through either because they aren’t seeing results, other things interfere, they don’t want to spend the money, or they perceive it as being just too difficult.

It’s the same way with a failing relationship.  I didn’t see results from my wife for a long time, but I kept doing the actions.  I got discouraged and distracted at times, but I kept doing the actions.  I made a decision that I wanted my wife’s love more than I wanted any other thing this world had to offer, and I stuck with it, no matter what.  Too many people say, “I tried, but it didn’t work,” when they weren’t in it for the long haul.  They wanted the quick fix, but fizzled when it was going to take much more time and work than they bargained for.

Now, my reality is this:  Once in shape doesn’t mean always in shape.  A person who is physically fit will begin to decline after only 72 hours of no physical exercise.  Once I had built up that love and had my wife securely in my heart and life once again, the work wasn’t finished.  In fact, if I want a happy love life, it will never be finished.  Just like if I want to stay in shape, I can never quit exercising.

When I get up in the morning, I very rarely feel like going to the gym, or getting on my bike, or hitting the running trail.  If I only worked out when I felt like it, I rarely ever would, and I wouldn’t be in shape.  I go and do it anyway, because I’m committed to the results, and that requires me to go through the process, because you don’t get one without the other.  So it is with my marriage.  I’m committed to doing the same things now that I did to save my marriage, because if I don’t, my marriage fitness will begin to decline, just like my physical fitness will decline if I stop working out.

People want more love in their marriage.  They want more romance, more spontaneity, more fun.  Do the actions.  That’s how it works.  It’s simple.  It’s not easy, but it is simple.  You won’t always feel like it.  Do it anyway.  Your spouse won’t always respond the way you hope for. Keep doing it.  Commit to the results if it’s the results you want.

It doesn’t have to be big things.  It doesn’t need to be fancy restaurants, expensive gifts, elaborate dates, or the like, although those things have their place.  It can be the little things, like really listening when your spouse needs to talk, remembering what he or she likes and showing up with it as a surprise, choosing to say words that build up and never tear down, and lending a helping hand at the right moment.

I’m committed to results, and that means doing what it takes.  Here’s the best part.  It’s so much more than worth it.  I never knew that our love could be this good.  It wouldn’t be without the work and the actions that have built it up and made it what it now is.  That’s why love is best understood as a verb.

Yesterday morning was the annual Girls Just Wanna Run 5K.  It’s the largest women’s only run/walk event in the state of Missouri.  It’s also one of the runs my wife participated in last year while we were separated.

This year, it was bigger than ever, with over 1.000 registrants and well over 900 actually completing the course.  As I did last year, I volunteered so that I could be part of it, although obviously, not as a runner.  Lots of husbands and boyfriends serve as traffic directors, man the water stations, etc.  I try to get stationed near the start of the course so that I can see my wife go by, then get to the finish line in time to be there for her after the last person passes my intersection.

As a traffic director, I get to watch hundreds and hundreds of women pass by, but I only have eyes for one.  Last year, as my wife came by, she was sort of on the outside of a fairly large group of runners, so she was more or less running right toward me.  I smiled and said a quick encouraging word (which she didn’t hear because she had her headphones in), but she gave me a high five, and I was pretty much on cloud nine with that.

This race was deep into our separation and was at a time when it was really sinking in that she might not choose me or ever come back to me.  That little gesture, and really any sign of friendship or affection at that point, went a long way with me.  At last year’s finish, she was exhausted from the extreme heat and disappointed with her time.  We hung around for some of the activities and door prizes, and also just so she could have a chance to recover from the heat and humidity.

After the race, they held a zumba demonstration, put on by some instructors from a local fitness center.  My wife was looking for a new zumba class and wanted to meet one of the teachers.  We went over and talked to him about the class, and at one point, he asked, is this your husband?  There was way too long a pause before she said yes, and I was really struggling with fears and doubts.  I knew that as fit and attractive as she was, she would have no problem getting pretty much whoever she wanted, and I didn’t know at that point how to make her want me.

Thank goodness it was always me that she really wanted deep down and I was able, with God’s help, to show her enough to make her believe that things were going to be right again between us.  She just needed to believe that I was really going to love her forever the way I had promised to so many years ago.  That race would be the last one she would run in before we were together again, although it didn’t seem possible that day.

Of course, this year’s race was an entirely different story.  I got an enthusiastic high five from her at the turn, and there was no doubt that we both felt the same way.  It was hot again, but her time was quite good and she nearly finished in the top 10% of the field.  She was still disappointed in her standing in her age group, but I kept telling her, “you beat almost 900 people today.”

It was wonderful to be a couple afterwards, instead of me feeling like a tag along that she may or may not have wanted to be hanging around.  We knew quite a few people at the race, and most of them have never known us as anything other than a committed husband and wife.  That’s how quickly and completely things can turn around, and that’s why you need to never give up if you’re struggling or fighting for your marriage.  Keep believing and do what you need to do, but never give up.  There’s always hope.

Driving home from Tennessee took the better part of a day, but the very next morning, we were back in the car heading toward Dodge City, KS.  We had lived there before moving to Missouri in the Summer of 2005, and we still had family and friends in the area.  The stated purpose of our visit was to see two of our daughters and my wife’s Mom and Stepdad over the Christmas holidays.  On a deeper level, we needed to go back there as part of the restoration tour.

It was while we lived in Dodge City that my spiritual problems really came to the surface.  I never wanted to live there, but my wife and I both felt that God was calling us to, so eventually we went.  We had a very difficult time there on many levels.  We were the victims of numerous property crimes, which isn’t particularly unusual with the gang problems that city has, but it was still frustrating.  My job became less and less satisfying as well, to the point that I seriously considered getting out of teaching and finding a different career.

A lot of people would say that if we were really doing God’s will, then we should expect to face obstacles and adversity, and that would be true.  What we didn’t expect to face was all of the internal problems and fighting that went on within the church that we were trying to work with.  There was sexual misconduct among the leadership, power struggles over who was going to be in charge, and way too much of people pursuing their own agendas.  Our family went through a lot of disillusionment and hurt during those years and, unfortunately, I blamed God for choices that people made.

When we finally left, it was bad for us financially in that we owned two houses in Kansas and hadn’t been able to get either one sold, but I felt that I was literally dying out there and something had to change.  I asked God to have grace and mercy on us and to let us try to start over.  I had good intentions when we moved, but I didn’t see things through.  Once we had lived in Missouri for just a short time, we went through the tornado and I really never recovered.

Last July, toward the end of our separation, I was going to visit my daughter, who lives in a small town near Dodge City.  My Mother-in-Law said it would be good for me to come stay with them, so I took that as a good sign for our marriage and I did.  They have a guest room in the basement of their house and that’s where we usually stay when we visit.  It was good to see everyone, but it was also agonizing to sleep alone in that bed.  Beyond that, it was terribly difficult being 400 miles away from my wife at a period of time when I had no idea what she was up to or if I would ever be able to win her back.

When we went there last Christmas, a lot of healing took place.  It was the first time we had been there since getting back together, so it was a celebration of more than just Christmas.  We were also rejoicing in all that we had overcome.  For me, it was wonderful to be back, but not alone this time.  It meant a lot to me that we also spent some time walking around and revisiting some of the places where we had really fallen hard and suffered a lot of losses in the years prior.  We can never get those years back, but we don’t have to live with bitterness and anger because of them.

Last Christmas, much like last year’s anniversary, was far too big to be limited to just the twelve days celebration and Christmas Day itself.  This was the Christmas of restoration, and we had lots of plans.  Christmas break from school fell in a good way last year and gave us a few days off before the actual holiday, which was really nice.  Some years, the last day of school is nearly Christmas Eve, so it’s difficult to get any last minute shopping in, or do much entertaining or going to Christmas parties.

We were planning two trips over Christmas break, one to the East, and the other West.  To the East was Tennessee, and since we got out of school on December 20th, we decided to leave a little early and get there before Christmas.  This cut into the twelve days in that we left on the 23rd, which is our 11th day of Christmas, but I already had her twelfth day gift bought, so I just brought it along in the car.  We made the 22nd our unofficial Christmas Eve because I wanted to exchange some gifts with just the two of us before we went to Tennessee.

When we had kids at home, I never wanted to travel over Christmas.  In my family growing up, we always had Christmas at home, so after we opened our presents, we had lots of time to play with them.  I wanted our kids to have the same experience, so we mostly let relatives come see us, instead of going to visit them.  Last year, as empty nesters, we could do whatever we wanted, so we just made plans according to our own schedule.  If that meant our Christmas morning was December 23, then so be it.

Even though we would be exchanging gifts with my wife’s family on the actual Christmas Day, I wanted to have a small Christmas with just the two of us first.  There were certain gifts that were very meaningful to us, but that others wouldn’t understand, so I wanted us to open them privately.  I also knew that it can get pretty chaotic in Tennessee with large families and lots of kids.  A quiet, romantic morning before all the hustle and bustle was what I was going for, and it was very special.

Christmas Eve was a day of shopping, cooking, and catching up.  It was busy, but not overwhelming.  We cooked the dinner at my in-laws’ house that evening to give them a break, since we knew they would be cooking up a storm all the next morning.  There were a few gifts exchanged that night, but it was mostly agreed that we would wait until the next morning.

Our white Tennessee Christmas morning

When we got up on the 25th, we found that it had started snowing during the night and given us a surprise white Christmas.  There were still some gentle flakes falling outside, and it was just enough to turn everything white without making travel difficult or becoming a hassle.  It was just one more little thing that made it extra special, like God was giving us a little gift to show us that He was thinking of us.

We pretty much feasted all day and played games late into the night, and my wife finally fell asleep sitting up in her chair while we listened to everyone telling stories and such.  It was very different from the way we usually spent Christmas, and very memorable.  It was really great to go there and just be taken care of, so we could just relax and take it all in.  We still had to drive back home on the 26th, then head right back out on the 27th for yet another Christmas and an important stop on the restoration tour

Almost every year, for the last fourteen that is, my wife and I have kept up our own celebration of the twelve days of Christmas.  Now, I know that the interpretations of when those twelve days are varies widely.  I also know that what we do is our own tradition, born out of love and romance, so it doesn’t have to agree with anyone else’s philosophy or ideals.

I’m not really sure how it started.  I have memories of it going way back to the very early years of our marriage.  I’m sure it was my wife’s idea.  I just don’t remember how it actually came into being.  It’s just something that is unique to us as a couple, and last Christmas, it needed some restoration.

We count back twelve days from Christmas, which makes December 13 our first day of Christmas.  On December 13, I give my wife one gift.  On December 14, I give her two of something, three of another thing the next day, and so on.  No turtle doves, pipers piping, or lords a leaping, and no repeating of the gifts day after day as in the song.  Just gifts of any sort that somehow match the number of the day, one through twelve.

Some of the days are extraordinarily easy.  Day one can be anything, of course, and so I only have to decide whether to make it something big, or something simple.  If there is to be an expensive gift in the twelve days, day one is very likely where it will be found.  Other years, it’s as simple as a single rose.  Day two can be earrings, again if there is to be a more expensive or fancy gift as part of the twelve days.

In years where the budget was especially tight, or I was working two jobs, the twelve days could sometimes be a bit stressful.  What I didn’t understand then was that the value of the gift was totally irrelevant to my wife.  She was just as happy with five pieces of candy as she would have been with five golden rings.  She wasn’t expecting me to spend hours searching for the perfect thing or spend a lot of money.  Her love language is gifts, and she just wanted me to be thinking of her and surprising her with whatever I would come home with.

Most years, it was fun, although some days were a challenge.  There aren’t many things you can buy in packages of eleven, for example.  I would have to get creative and do things like eleven ounces of something, or pick out nine individual items of things that went together.  For some of these, I would write out coupons that she could redeem for back rubs and so forth.  I also bought calendars, memberships, and/or subscriptions for day twelve (12 months),

In 2009, my wife said she wasn’t expecting me to do the twelve days of Christmas if I didn’t want to. I didn’t, and I think it was only the second year that we ever skipped it.  As I’ve mentioned before, the lack of really celebrating Christmas that year was what helped convince my wife that I no longer loved her and that our marriage was coming to a close. That wasn’t exactly the case – I was just confused and didn’t know what to do – but she had seen her parents divorce after a difficult Christmas and saw this as the writing on the wall.

Last year, I couldn’t wait for December 13, so I could start the days of Christmas.  Since it was the year of the restoration tour, I wanted it to be the best ever and it was.  I could tell that God was in it, too, because it was so easy to find all the gifts. Not only that, but it seemed that every one of my ideas worked out and I was always in the right place at the right time.  It wasn’t stressful at all, and was actually the most fun I’ve ever had with it.

I was able to get some great surprises worked in, like eight ounces of her favorite lotion, when she never even knew I had been to the store where they sell it.  She loves food and sweets, and I actually found nine, ten, and eleven in food items that she wasn’t even aware of.  I didn’t have to spend a lot of money, and I understood that this was all about speaking her love language, not trying to impress anyone or choose gifts of a certain monetary value.

By doing it the way we do, the twelfth day is actually Christmas Eve.  Then the next day, she gets all of her regular Christmas gifts, not only from me, but from the rest of the family.  She gets to tell everyone all about what she’s been getting all during the twelve days, which is also part of what makes it fun for her.  I get to be the romantic hero, and it’s really pretty easy, especially when I have someone that’s so easy to love.

One of the houses that we restored had a dining room that had been added on after the original construction.  Because of the way it was built, there were some problems that proved extremely difficult, if not impossible to overcome.  The roof leaked, and even after building an entirely new slanted roof over that part of the house, we still had issues with heavy rains.  There were also electrical issues in that room that may or may not have had to do with water getting in.

In spite of all this, it was probably our favorite room in the house.  It was built-in to part of a wrap-around porch that featured limestone columns which became part of the room’s decor.  There were large windows in between, and this gave it something of a sun room effect, not to mention views in three directions.   We spent many hours eating, playing, and entertaining in that room.  Despite its difficulties, we learned to love it.  We discovered a similar dynamic in our marriage.

Where we work, they do an activity called the “compass points.”  Its purpose is to categorize people by certain characteristics of their personality so that they can better understand how to work together.  My wife is a North and I am a West.  Norths are people who just go and just do.  They are action people who don’t wait to know the plan or read the directions.  Wests are detail oriented, “spell it out for me” types who are reluctant to act without having all the information.  One of the things we were told as part of the activity is that a North and a West make a particularly bad combination.

In earlier years of our marriage, we stumbled quite a bit over the challenges of these two personality types.  I would want to figure out a plan for something and my wife would get irritated because we weren’t getting anything done.  She would tear into a job and I would get irritated because she hadn’t thought through what all we were going to need, or how it was going to work.  We butted heads a lot over these types of things.  I blamed her for setbacks and mistakes when she rushed ahead without a plan.  She blamed me for lack of action and procrastinating when I was trying to figure everything out first.

The problem with this is that God chose us for each other.  That means we must be good for each other, not bad.  If a North and a West are a bad combination, either God made a mistake, or we were missing something.  What we were missing was balance and perspective.

What we failed to see for so long was how our differences could be strengths instead of difficulties.  Instead of the characteristics of a North and a West causing stress and strife, we could allow them to bring balance to each of us, and help us to be better together than we were individually.  My careful planning could help us avoid costly mistakes.  My wife’s fearless enthusiasm could get me up and moving instead of letting life pass me by.

I’m not sure exactly when we began to figure this out, but when we did, it not only began to set us free, but also allowed us to see how our differences could be celebrated, not just tolerated.  Much like that dining room that caused us so many headaches that we could never fix, so there were differences in us that were never going to change.  In the same way, we had so many fond memories of that room and we are now making so many new memories creating a beautiful life out of the way we complete each other.

The day my wife and I got married was the happiest day of my life.  I will never forget what I felt when I saw her standing at the back of the church.  I’ll also never forget the friends, the reception, and the fun we had that day.  It was the perfect blend of fun and seriousness.  There were pranks and light moments, and there were solemn vows and songs of devotion.

The two biggest surprises for me both involved our car.  The first was that the guys had poured Rice Krispies into the air vents and turned the setting to high, so as soon as I started the car, we were showered with them in our seats.  Not only was it a fun shock at the time, but over the few months following, stray pieces of rice would work their way loose and come flying out at random moments, bringing smiles to our faces.

The other unexpected surprise was the reaction of other people to the “just married” writing and other evidence of our wedding that was all over the car.  We couldn’t afford much of a honeymoon at the time, so we just drove from Dodge City to Wichita, KS and stayed at an old fashioned bed and breakfast.  Everywhere we drove, people smiled, honked, waved, and gave us thumbs up signs.  Maybe it was the grins plastered all over our faces, or maybe people were just glad for newlywed couples, but it was as if an entire city of strangers shared in the joy of our special day.

After our separation, and when we got back together, those grins were all over our faces again, but we were in for another surprise.  Not everyone was happy for us or supportive.  We didn’t have decorations on our car to signal strangers that we had just been joined back together in marriage, but people that we knew, who were aware that we had been split up and had worked it out should have had even more reason to be happy for us, we thought.

Don’t misunderstand, there were many who were. I would say the majority of our friends and co-workers were happy for us and said so.  With that being said, there were those who blew us off, showed no happiness or support, and even withdrew from us.  We didn’t expect everyone to be all giddy with joy, but we did think that people would fairly universally rally around a story with a happy ending.  After all, the fairy tales all say, “and they lived happily ever after,” don’t they?

Maybe that’s where some of the problem comes in.  True love and a happy marriage is what people really want deep down.  But in today’s society, so many people have been hurt, abused, used, and discarded, that they’ve quit believing in that dream.  They’ve put up walls that they think are protecting themselves, and they are choosing to accept less than what they really want because they are afraid that they won’t ever be able to get it.

By being negative toward marriage, and congregating with other equally negative people, they try to insulate themselves from their own dissatisfaction with life and love.  When they hear of people getting married, their reaction is, “How long do you suppose it will last?”  When they hear of people splitting up and getting divorced, it reaffirms in their mind that there is no happily ever after, so therefore, they aren’t missing out on anything.

Those are the people who have a hard time with our story.  It flies in the face of their false smugness, and forces them to look at what they don’t want to see.  They won’t rejoice with us, because it would expose their own sorrow that they are trying so hard to deny.  They are jealous of our love, and they resist it instead of letting it inspire them.  Instead of letting our victory be a beacon of hope that shows the way to real and lasting love, they turn away and cling to their belief that love can’t be true.

I ache for those people, and I keep them in my prayers.  I so long to be able to share with others what God has done in our marriage, and what He will do for them.  The princess being rescued and the guy getting the girl, these are at the very heart of all romantic notions.  The reason they persist is that we were made to believe in and experience real love.  It is a part of our very make-up as human beings.  If you’ve found that kind of love, you’ll undoubtedly rejoice with us.  If you haven’t, don’t ever give up.  It’s real, and it’s for everyone who will fight for it with all their strength and never give up.

The day before my wife ran the Bass Pro Marathon, we went down to Branson and spent part of the day at Silver Dollar City.  For those of you who don’t know, Silver Dollar City is a theme park based on the late 1800’s.  It features a variety of roller coasters and water rides, but is mostly known for its old time shows, craftsman shops, food and atmosphere.

Shortly after my parents retired to Springfield, Missouri, we visited the area for a family vacation.  We never thought at the time that we’d ever live here, but we had a great vacation, and Silver Dollar City was our favorite part of it.  When we did, in fact, move to the Ozarks, we bought season passes and visited the park about once a month.  As time went by, we visited less, but at the beginning of 2010, we bought season passes one more time.

While we were having our marriage difficulties, we made two or three visits to the theme park.  I suppose it was an escape from reality and a way to pretend that things were still good.  We didn’t have very many good days last Spring and Summer, but the ones we spent at Silver Dollar City were always fun.  I could spoil my sweetheart and she would let me, and we could laugh and play together like the best of friends, not a couple who were nearing the end of their marriage.

During that same time period, I began the practice of taking a lot of pictures of my wife while we were out going places and doing things together.  I took them on my phone, so they were always at my fingertips to look at.  Naturally, I took quite a few pictures during the several visits we made to Silver Dollar City.  Since we had so few good times together during that part of last year, I wanted to hold on to whatever positives I could.

I also proudly displayed the pictures as backgrounds on my phone, on Facebook, and anywhere else that I could show my wife that I was truly devoted to her, and that she was the one I was in love with and thinking of.  She always seemed a bit uncomfortable with it, but I believed that deep down, she liked knowing that I was that proud of her and wanted to be her man that much.

After we got back together, and after the initial joy of reuniting, I went through a period where I struggled with regret about the past and the things that we had gone through.  I would obsess over the pictures at times, looking at the dates they were taken, and thinking about the way things were then and how I wished they had been instead.  It was rather unhealthy and was dragging me down quite a bit for a period of time.

One day, I was looking for a different picture to set as my background on my phone.  The one I had used for several months was taken at Silver Dollar City while we were separated.  My wife would always ask me, “Why do you like that picture?”  I just told her that I liked the way she looked in it, which was true.  I also liked the memories of the day we had spent, and I liked that she was wearing my favorite shirt in the picture.

As I scanned my phone for a new picture, I noticed something.  In the new pictures from Silver Dollar City, taken after we had gotten back together, my wife had a different look about her.  There was a happiness in her eyes and a purity in her smile that wasn’t there in the earlier ones.  I began to look further.  I found the same thing in the other, older photos taken in other places.

As I began to put it all together, it suddenly became clear.  In all of the pictures taken before we got back together, there was a sadness and a distance in her eyes.  In all of the pictures taken after we reunited, that look was gone, and had been replaced by one of happiness and   freedom.  That realization set me free from being stuck obsessing over the pictures of the past, and gave me a visible sign of how much everything was now changed.

Seeing isn’t necessarily believing, and I was experiencing the changes happening in our marriage for myself, but those pictures existed as proof that the way things had been were no longer the way they were.  Not only that, they showed that it was putting our marriage back together that had brought about the healing.  We were one again in heart and mind, and the difference was undeniable.

My wife asked me just within the last few days if I believed that a mid-life crisis was what started all of our marriage problems.  I told her I didn’t think so, but that we both had certainly had some strange behavior and done some crazy and uncharacteristic things around the time we each turned forty.

She had announced, back when she was about to turn 39, that she was going to run a marathon to prove that she wasn’t old.  Even though she certainly didn’t need to prove anything to anyone except herself, she spent the better part of a year training and, last November, she did in fact run a full marathon.  By that time, we had already been through our separation and were well into the restoration tour, but she had set her mind on doing this, and I had supported her the whole way.

The marathon was her thing, not mine.  I encouraged her and trained with her to some extent, but I never had any plans to run it, nor could I have because of my knee injury.  It was, ironically, while I was attempting to do a long training run with her that the injury occurred, so even if I had any thoughts of trying to run it up to that point, they ended that day.  I was happy to be her cheerleader for this event and nothing more.

The fitness center that we are members of announced a training program last Spring for people who wanted to run the Bass Pro marathon in the fall.  It was called the Galloway program, named after running guru Jeff Galloway.  The cost was $100 and we paid it and signed my wife up.  It started right during the time that our marriage was falling apart and it mostly involved training runs with a large group on Saturday mornings.

Soon after the training started, we separated.  There were many Saturday mornings that were pure anguish for me, as I would often pick her up from her loft, have her drop me off at the gym, and then she would take the car and go on to the place where her running group was meeting.  I was working out alone, while she ran with her group.  When she was done, she would come up to the gym and pick me up, and then there was never any certainty of whether we would spend any time together or have to say good-bye again.

After we got back together, and especially after my triathlon, she faltered somewhat in her training.  I was no longer training for anything, and we were enjoying our marriage too much to be as disciplined as we should have been for her first marathon.  There were a number of Saturday mornings that we just didn’t get out of bed. We would say that we would go together and make up the running the next day.  Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn’t.

To say that my wife is amazing would be the understatement of the century.  She reached a point, about a month before the race, that she decided she was still committed and was going to do it.  One morning, when she was supposed to be running 23 miles, she felt good enough and decided to go ahead and do the whole 26, just so that she would know that she could.  That happened to be a day that she was scheduled to work a full shift at Dillard’s, so she ran the equivalent of a full marathon in the morning and then went to work.

Sign right before the finish line

The day of the Marathon, she was nervous and I was excited.  It was a beautiful day for early November, so the weather wasn’t going to be a factor.  Since I couldn’t participate, and I didn’t want to sit around for five hours waiting for her, I decided to volunteer at one of the intersections along the route.  That way I got to see her about half way through and give her some words of encouragement.

I brought my bike, and I figured that after I was done at my station, I would go try to find her on the course and see how she was doing.  I tracked her down at around mile 21 and she was in a lot of pain.  I stayed with her for those last few miles and talked her through it when her body wanted her to quit.  When she crossed the finish, it was an extremely proud moment for each of us.  For her, it was a huge accomplishment that not many people will ever achieve.  For me, it made the pain of all those awful mornings go away, and I was thrilled to step aside and let her get all the praise and recognition for what she had done.