12 Years

Jim watches Fox News. I watch PBS. Why did we marry? We agree it was because God brought us together. Why are we still married? We agree, “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9). And God keeps weaving our lives together, renewing our love with wonderful gifts. I’ve sorted them into 12 piles this 12th year.

1. Prayer– Jim’s praying with other single parents for our children and his prayer as we set off on a weekend singles’ retreat drew me to him on a soul level. We have prayed aloud together almost every day since our engagement, either over the phone or holding hands when in person.

2. Church – When we met, Jim was a member of a conservative congregation & I of a liberal one. After much prayer & because I had lifetime connections with the Christian Reformed denomination, especially locally, I rejoined DC CRC, and we were married there. Jim joined soon after that. Being active & worshiping together in this church community each week strengthens our marital commitment.

3. Parents & siblings – Jim’s parents were deceased when I met him. Two sisters, both older than Jim, came to our wedding (from TX & NY) and do keep in touch. They are active in church, busy with their families & facing health issues. My dad, a retired CRC pastor, did our premarital counseling & officiated at our wedding. He & Mom & my 2 brothers & 2 sisters were overjoyed to welcome Jim into the family. Since Dad’s death Jim has been a dear friend to Mom.

4. Children – I have a son & 2 daughters. Jim has a son whose mother died while he was in high school. When we married all 4 were single. Now the daughters are married & the sons engaged. We like to think our marriage has been & will keep influencing them all for good.

5. Grandchildren – Daughter Jean’s son Judah was born a month after Jim & I started dating. As I cared for Judah while Jean finished college, as we visited them in HI, CO & OR, and Judah stayed with us for 2 or more weeks each summer, Jim’s tender, joyful, parental love has flourished. Now 12 y.o. Judah has a 1 y.o. brother Seren. We hope they have cousins someday!

6. Home – I’d lived at 30 addresses by the time I was 50, none more than 6 yrs. Jim had lived in Greenbelt for 18 yrs. I fell in love with Greenbelt as fast as with Jim. We bought an expanded end-unit townhouse with tall trees & garden space in Greenbelt Homes co-operative. By God’s grace we’re always renewing this house into a welcoming home for each other & for frequent guests.

7. Employment – I had as many if not more jobs as home addresses by the time we married. However, Jim had worked at Goddard Spaceflight Center with CSC for 18 yrs. I’d been self-employed (& overwhelmed) 5 yrs. providing transportation & recreation for seniors. With Jim paying bills, I was relieved to close the business. For several years until it closed, I directed the senior center I’d helped start in our church years before. Now I enjoy volunteer work and part-time childcare jobs.

8. Exercise – Walking around Greenbelt Lake or Lake Artemesia or on 5 or 10K Volksmarches near & far invigorates us in body & spirit. We swim 12 laps twice weekly at the aquatic center, followed by hot tub time with our word-guessing game.

9. Scrabble – We usually play weekly, daily on vacations, never weakly, always using several special word list books & dictionaries. On holidays, birthdays or anniversaries it’s SuperScrabble (larger board & 200 letter tiles).

10. Travel – Both of us prefer driving to flying, visiting family & friends rather than tourism, and staying in the US (though we may go to Canada after Jim retires). I enjoy visiting Christian Reformed Churches in each state. We’re thankful for many happy trip memories & photos, looking forward to many more.

11. Romance – Jim has a wonderful, humorous way of making ordinary routines romantic. Every time we go out–walking, swimming, even shopping, & of course our weekly restaurant meals– it’s a date. For our honeymoon & several anniversaries we explored Chincoteague. This year we’re taking 3 nights at a bed & breakfast in Ocean Grove NJ.

12. Vocation – For most of my life I recognized the Holy Spirit calling me to write. The publication of Mulled Words, writing of Mulled Psalms, and now weekly Mullstream blogs are incredibly rejuvenating for me. I pray that as Jim considers retirement in the years to come he too will realize God’s call & the gifts that make responding joyous.

Unalayee

A chunk of my heart has been at Camp Unalayee in Northern California’s Trinity Alps these past two weeks with grandson Judah. I’ve only seen it on the website, but I’m glad Judah is there. I hope the base camp at Mosquito Lake isn’t living up to its name (or that they have this lemon eucalyptus spray I got at MOMs).

Judah was as much at home outdoors as in for the first 6 years of his life–with his Mom Jean at summer Rainbow Family gatherings, camping in a Kauai jungle or on a Hawaiian beach, hiking and swimming with friends and family in many states. He now lives in a large house on a wooded hill in Ashland OR. He’s crazy about skate and snowboarding and does enjoy school field trips & occasional family outings. In May he even went camping for a weekend with some guys, but the main purpose was wild 4-wheeler dune rides.

Jean was able to coax her 12 & 3/4 year-old on this adventure, since he could be in the same “tribe” as his twin friends, David & Gabe, whose Bar Mitzvah he attended in June. I trust that Creator God/Holy Friend/Great Spirit has drawn Judah to this Unalayee (Place of Friends). I pray that looking back, maybe while Judah & his friend Alex are with us later this month, maybe next summer or many years later, Judah will recognize the call of the One who is Love in his life and will respond with joy.

On the first day after Judah spent an hour with his counselors and other tribe members before Jean & Mikael left, he said he liked them a lot. It’s the people who make this wilderness camp a place of friends–of each other and of the earth.

It’s also people who can renew churches as Unalayee communities. May DC CRC and all churches be places of friends –not merely friendly, indoor, air-conditioned spaces. May we be friends of every child, every family and tribe, friends of creation, friends of God.

Vermont

Waist deep I still see Echo Lake’s gravelly, sandy bottom through sunlit ripples. Oh, there’s a fish! A perch? Gorgeous, graceful.  Squeamish, I step aside and wade deeper before plunging into the darker waters where weeds cover the bottom. Breasts, heart, lungs slowly adjust to the brisk chill, rejuvenated, exhilarated. I swim two long laps between bouys, flipping several times to float, watch clouds, do backstroke. After seven invigorating minutes I stagger ashore, light-headed, needing to lay down or at least sit and breathe deep. It’s my second and last brief swim of this week in Vermont.

But every day Mom gets a quick car (or golf cart) ride across the road, down the lane to the beach. Clad in her black with white dots, skirted swimsuit, she pushes her walker knee-deep into the lake, sits on it, removes flip-flops, dons black swim-cap, and lowers her bulky, achy body gingerly onto one, then two knees. Head down she glides freely into her 80+ years practiced crawl stroke. Like me she takes breaks to float. Unlike me she paces herself, rather than hurrying with the crawl, side & backstroke. A good half-hour later she’s back on the walker seat. Arthritic toes stretch easier now under flip-flop straps. Sighs and puffs for breath resume only as she lumbers up the cottage steps stopping to ask, “Have you talked with Duff & Mary since they left Maryland?

It’s been a wonderful summer week, culmination of sister Joyce’s two months in the U.S. Sunday she flies back to Guinea, West Africa. She & Mom drove to Greenbelt last Friday and up to Bellows Falls VT on Sathurday where they met Joyce’s daughter Clara on Amtrak’s Vermonter. I came up Sunday on the same train from New Carrollton. This Plymouth Camp State Park cottage was comfortable for us four women. Mom & I played Scrabble every day. Joyce & Clara shopped, explored, canoed and stayed up late catching up as mother & daughter. On Wednesday Clara took the train back to husband Stephen & her job in Manhattan.

It’s Friday now, our last day. Yesterday sister Nancy & her husband Marv came from their home in New Hampshire. Later last night my son Christopher (aka Duff) & his fiancee Mary Susan Phelps arrived in the area on their way to visit Roorda family in New Hampshire. The seven of us immensely enjoyed six hours together at the cottage: pancake breakfast, photo albums, lots of happy talk, a mile round-trip hike to Echo Lake Vista, a swim for Nancy & Mom, buffet lunch, and a canoe ride for Mom with Duff & Mary.

We missed spouses and children, but will treasure the memories, alive in our bodies as well as in photos for years to come.