My Priestess

It's a season of unexpected motion, of movement. Amber, my wife of nearly 18 years, has reached the end of a sort of wrestling down her identity, or maybe it's just the beginning. She's been my girl, my beauty, my prophetess for all these years. She's been the thing that's brought me to salvation again and again, even in the bleakest seasons. What is a lover but a type and shadow of divine love? Lover--I could use this could be a sort of holistic nomenclature, but is this who she is?

She's been my lover, yes. She's been the mother to my children, too. There were years of sippy cups, diaper changes, and late-night feedings. The years that followed have been filled with other things--comforting hugs, words of discipline (perhaps frustration), gut laughs. What is a mother but a shepherd? Mother--this is also a facet of who she is, but it hardly names the gem.

She's been a friend, a giver, an encourager. She's been faithful to minister Word and sacrament to her people, I suppose. Maybe more, she's been faithful to the ministry of flowers, one of the unsung ministries of friendship. What is a friend but the embodiment of Word and sacrament? What is a friend but the gift of flowers. Yes, a flower knows a flower; a friend knows a friend, but even these are not taxonomy enough for my lady.

She's lived into all these roles, roles that fit in her skin like a soul. Even still, she's wrestled down her Who Am I? over these last 18 years, and she's come to know this for sure: she is a chosen, a royal priestess, a peculiar woman. In this, she's found a new sort of calling, one that's taking her to seminary, to training, to stepping into the thing that so many have said she can't, woman as she is. She's walking into holy orders, maybe, and in that, she'll preside over so much life and death, weddings and funerals alike. She's accepting the role of shepherd, teacher, perhaps evangelist and prophet, and wearing these roles like some brilliant stole. And here's the humbling beauty lacing it all--there may come a day when others come to see her as my shepherd, teacher, evangelist, and prophet. (This is what happens when your wife is a minister.) They'll ask me how I feel about that, I suppose. I'll smile, wink, knowing this isn't the whole of who she is, and I'll tell them this: "She's always been all of this and so much more."

 

 

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Cue the Ruckus

This week is the release of Mother Letters: Sharing the Laugher, Joy, Struggles, and Hope. Today, I'm grateful to be sharing a little mother story at Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience. I hope you'll read along.

***

The sun set over the western bank of trees, long arms stretching across the waters of a tiny pond.

Welcome, they said.

Workweek over and itching to exercise his boyish spirit, Isaac called his best friend—Tippa, the black, wire-haired mutt—and reached for his fishing rod.

Down to the water glowing orange, the moss-covered banks. Down to his sanctuary, the place of catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass. It was his place of refuge, his honey hole.

Lure to line, knot tied, Isaac rested his rod against the fence post and turned to his tackle box. He reached for split shot, some pliers, perhaps some scissors. The rod listed, fell, flipping the lure forward, barbed hook finding its way into the paw of Isaac’s best friend.

Cue the ruckus.

Cue...

Continue reading at A Holy Experience.

And if you'd like purchase a copy of Mother Letters (it'd make a great Mother's Day present), visit Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

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License to Drive (A Marriage Letter)

Today, Amber and I reached our 16th year of marriage. (Friday the 13th? Don't worry. I don't believe in omens.) I'm commemorating with another installment of marriage letters.

*****

Dear Amber,

The first days were infantile and cooing. Babies in marriage, we were unsure how to use our limbs, how to use our bodies in tandem connection.

These are the things you're never told: it takes time to acclimate to the shape of another person's body; it takes even more time to acclimate to the division of a closet.

There came the days of toddler marriage, the two of us tripping into the mine, mine, mine stage. Money, art, love--we shared sparingly, but thought ourselves generous.

These are the things you are never told: the generosity of love is a death of sorts.

In the pre-school days of marriage, we asserted our independence, tried our best to put distance between each other. We explored the great wide world of other shiny possibilities. We stole glances at lovers--careers, faith, maybe even people--but kept falling back into the same bed. That bed, it was the place of our pulling together.

These are the things you are never told: real love is like a magnet, always pulling, pulling, pulling so long as you keep opposite poles facing one another.

After a decade of walking this covenant, we settled into an easier love. Career, church, children--each was more complex. But our needles were set in a good groove, a worn one. Relationship made more sense, better music, even if we spun into a blues ballad from time to time.

These are the things you are never told: marriage and jazz are kissing cousins; if the music is still playable ten years later, it has a shot to be something classic.

It's been sixteen years today, and I feel like we've finally figured out how to drive this thing. The permits have turned into licenses. We've inherited a used car, but it's a beauty. We know how to drive to work, to school, to the grocery store. We've know the way to Lover's Lane, too (the metaphorical one, not the one up by the Furlow's house). Sixteen years--can you believe it? Let's take the car for a spin tonight?

These are the things you are never told: every year of marriage can be a little better than the last, but only if you let it be.

Happy Anniversary,

Seth

*****

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Wild in the Hollow: A Birthday Bash!

I was told once by a bunch of Calvinists that all things were predestined before the foundations of the earth. Death. Salvation. Destruction. The weather on May 21, 1996. The toast I ate for breakfast this morning, a touch burned. All of these things were chiseled in a stoney timeline even before God thundered "Let there be light!" over the void. All things planned. All means spinning toward the ultimate ends of God. These are the things once said by that Calvinist bunch. Perhaps its an oversimplification of some grander theological truth. I'm not sure. I'm a lawyer by trade, and I have no letters behind my name vouching for my theological prowess. I'm a simple layman, one who uses spiritual intuition and a sometimes confounding set of scriptures to understand the workings of the cosmos. But as untrue as this sort of hyperactive, robotic predestination construct feels most days, there are other days when I wonder whether we're not all just running down the record groves.

This isn't so much about building a case for pet theologies, so don't curse the screen just yet. It's an exercise in recognizing a thing. The thing is a pulling or maybe a pushing. It's about things ordained.

On a September Saturday in 1998, I sat in a stiff plastic chair in the Marie Hammon Student Center of Harding University. Marie Hammon was some long lost relative of mine--a great aunt, or fourth cousin, or some such. She was a wealthy Floridian spinster who'd made her fortune by virtue of marriage to a fortunate man. As the story goes, she was brutally murdered by her gardener on account of dispute over money or cocaine--depending on your perspective on the matter--and she'd left a sizable sum to the school on the stipulation that my sister and I attended for free. I never met Maria Hammon. She didn't much care for children, I was told.

I sat with Christy, a senior who had a thing for my best friend's brother. She was a short shot, full of fire, vivacious. She could have been a thing, I've always thought, but she was off limits according to the Bro-Code, which is a lamentable but very real thing. Christy and I were were making small talk, wasting a cool weekend morning when Amber walked in the Student Center, loose tee sweats and a tee shirt.

I looked at my short shot, said, "I think I like that girl. Met her last week here and I'm thinking about asking her out." Christy smiled, tousled my hair like I was a little brother and said, "what are you waiting for, Sport?" She nudged me from my chair. The rest is history. (See how the pushing works?)

It could have been like any other of my first dates--a concert, a movie, some little triviality that drove me so crazy that I bolted. It wasn't. We were in sync from the beginning, found our rhythm from the minute she stepped down into my tiny black Mitsubishi Eclipse. In that silly little car--almost sporty--Amber told me she was a poet with supreme confidence. She wasn't going to be or hoping she'd grow up into like so many of the other girls on campus. She was, she said. A present, active, confident verb. She would write books, she said, or maybe lyrics. Who knew.

Tides to the moon, we were pulled, and pulled, and pulled. It was the first date in a continuum of togetherness. Engagement on a snowy day in December. Marriage in an orange Indian Summer in Alabama. A bad stint in ministry. Graduate school programs--a Master's of Fine Arts for her; law school for me. A trip, maybe a fall. Maybe one for each of us. Whatever. A child, then another, then another, then another. Dark seasons. Seasons of light. Dream seasons; seasons of dreams. Through it all, Amber was a poet. A present action verb living and collecting experience. All of it was writing fodder, pen fuel.

Today is the culmination of all the pushing and pulling. Over the last two years, Amber has worked on what would become her first book--Wild in the Hollow. It's a memoir about smallness, weakness, and finding the broken way home. It tells her story and a sizable chunk of our story. It's true, at times heavy, but never heavy handed. There's a poet's touch to the pages.

We're still looking for the way home, Amber and I. Or perhaps the way home is looking for us. Who knows. I suppose it depends on how much Calvinism one can stomach without tossing one's theological cookies. Either way, today marks a step in Amber's journey into her fit; dare I say her calling? Who knows. I suppose time will tell. But today, we're celebrating the official release of Wild in the Hollow. Will you celebrate with us?

You can send Amber congratulations on Facebook, or Twitter. And if you haven't picked up your copy of Wild in the Hollow yet, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Givington's, or other fine book sellers. Join me in making this a special day for Amber.

 

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Marriage Letters: The Things That are Yours

On the first Monday of each month, Amber and I are writing marriage letters to each other. Sure, there are qualified experts who've written well about marriage, but we're writing into our marriage. Read here, then jump over to Amber's place to read her Marriage Letter.

*****

Dear Amber,

When we met, the things that were yours were a mystery to me. An accent from the deep south. A Ford Taurus that wouldn't crank on Tuesdays. Jeans with a cigarette box imprint on the back pocket. A collection of Nirvana CDs. The bounce in your unction when any Salt-n-Pepa tune played on the radio. Journals of angsty poetry. Lotions that smelled of Spring. Memories of summer strawberries. Your collar bones peaking from the top of a loose blue sweater.

You were both collector of and a collection of mysteries. You held your mysteries close. In fact, there are some I still haven't quite unraveled. A little intrigue keeps a boy on the chase, I suppose.

We've grown into these last fifteen years, and as the Good Book says, our two have become one flesh. I suppose many take that bit of Scripture to mean "what's yours is mine and what's mine is yours." That may be a valid interpretation, but I don't see it that way.

We've made a home together. Ours. We've made four boys together. Ours. We have a dog, a garden patch, a record player, and a number of books that rivals the Abrahamic stars. Ours; ours; ours; ours. But even in this shared life of ours, you still have your own things.

Amber Fedora

The fedora you wore to the best Italian dive in town, the one in the sketchy pay-by-the-hour motel. The smile you wear when you work the dirt or a good sentence. The tears that well up after a good church service. Gilmore Girls. The flower beds. Lavender oil. The gate you made from used pallets and zip ties. The baby chicks.

FrankFlowers

Purple flowers

Chicks

You still have the things that are yours. I don't suppose being one flesh means those things are mine, too, though I do enjoy the spoils from time to time. I understand you better today than I ever have, and we've lived into each other's experiences and discoveries together. I've watched you come alive as you've discovered new interests or rekindled old ones. And maybe it's not as mysterious as what filled those jeans with the cigarette box bleached into the back pocket, but it's every bit as romantic.

[tweetherder]I don't think marriage is about persona-melding, about trading individual identity for a collective one.[/tweetherder] That kind of marriage sounds less like something I want and more like a bad episode of X-Files. No doubt, we share a lot, but the truth is, I don't want to be married to someone with a personality just like mine. (I'd probably kill me, if I'm honest.) I want to be married to you--all of your likes, dislikes, and personality quirks included.

I'm glad that you've walked with me into this life that is ours, but I'm also glad for the collection of things your call yours. More than anything, I'm glad you keep collecting me.

Cheep, cheep,

Seth

*****

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