This weekend my parents are celebrating fifty years of wedded bliss, and all their girls are descending from the four corners of the country (NH, PA, GA, and WA) to join the festivities.
Fifty years of marriage is an achievement by any standard, and what is even more remarkable is that they faced so much hardship within the immediate family circle during that lifetime. Military deployments, at least ten interstate moves (each of us was born in a different state), my sister’s childhood bout with cancer, my prolonged recovery from a car accident in 1983, financial setbacks, unwed pregnancies, countless hospital rooms, cancer, diabetes, stroke . . . Then, as each daughter left home, they began to provide backup for the little emergencies that blew into our lives like so many dark clouds.
How did they do it? Here are some of the things I learned from my parents about marriage.
1. Faith and family are inseparable. They go to church, together, at least once a week — and usually any other time the church doors open. What’s more, they always gave generously of their time and talents, whether singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, running VBS, or making sandwiches for the after-school program. Their example stayed with us — each of us in turn found a place to serve; missionary projects, bell choir, domestic violence ministries, and other kinds of service.
2. The best way to forget your troubles is to help someone else. The year my sister had her leg amputated, my parents invited an exchange student to live with us. And when the doctor bills piled up and money got tight, instead of sending Jaana away, my parents hosted her parents at our home — with the help of seven boxes of groceries that mysteriously materialized on our front porch one Sunday morning while we were at church.
3. Don’t forget to have fun. Someone once told me that in the Church liturgical calendar, there are six feasts for every fast (such as Advent or Lent). My mother was especially good at finding inexpensive fun for us: cookie baking, road trips to local parks, camping at the lake, and knowing how to stretch the soup or whip up a pan of biscuits to accommodate an unexpected dinner guest.
This year, we’ve had ample opportunity to put these principles into practice, and I’ve discovered how important these things are in a good marriage — or even a struggling one. When times get hard, you can look for reasons to leave . . . or reasons to stay. With God’s help, my parents have amply demonstrated, a couple who is determined to persevere . . . will find the reason they need to make it work.
Thanks, Mom and Dad.
From your grateful daughter,