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Happiness, I’ve decided, isn’t really the goal of a marriage. Or relationship. Or whatever you call what you have.

I mean, it isn’t good or bad based on how happy he is or I am on any given marital day. Frankly, I’m a little suspicious of people who claim bliss, all the time. I wonder if they’re telling the truth, the ones who say we’ve never had a fight or he always does this or she never does that.

I once heard a friend say she’d never seen her parents fight. I used to wish my children could say that but, you know, no. Now, I wonder. Maybe they’ve seen us fight, but they’ve also seen us make up and forgive and stay together and grow. So there’s that.

I don’t know if happiness can be a goal in anything, really. I love being a mom but it doesn’t always make me happy. I love writing but, again, sometimes it’s more of a pain than a pleasure.

And I love being married, except when I don’t.

I think I have a good marriage. I can even say I have a happy marriage. But it’s two people, People, so there’s conflict at times, and goal adjustment, and give and take, and we all know that, don’t we.

In our marriage, my husband and I have experienced – individually and collectively – moments, days, and even seasons of unhappiness.

Friends, we have had times of such miserable-ness, I wondered if we could survive. The thing that made the difference, if you’d like to know, was honesty. I don’t mean honesty between us, although that is super important, too. I mean honesty out there, in the world. I mean the kind of honesty where we quit pretending we were perfect and all was just grand, thank you very much.

When we decided the struggle was not going to be our little secret, we got healthier. And when we got healthier, we got happier.

It could have been different. If one of us had decided it wasn’t worth it or gave up or got too tired, we might not have made it. It takes two, it’s true. And if your marriage hasn’t worked, I’m not judging and I’m truly sorry. But if you are in the midst of the struggle and you think there might be hope, I’d encourage you to talk about it. Talk out there, with someone you trust. Be as honest and as transparent as you have the courage to be.

I won’t lie to you; I was terrified. I was terrified when I told my husband I was going to talk to someone about our marriage, and I was terrified when I met that older woman that day for lunch, and I was terrified when I shared my heart with her. And honestly, she didn’t really help much. She was sweet and she listened, but she didn’t fix my life.

It was the experience of telling the truth that was the game changer. Our marriage didn’t automatically become beautiful and happy, but the way we dealt with our problems changed. It all became very real and urgent, and we just kind of quit covering for each other.

We aren’t perfect, now, and neither is our marriage. We don’t have all the answers and there are probably other people out there with better advice. But here’s mine.

Be honest. Tell the truth. Don’t fake it.

It worked for us.

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I spoke at a Spring Renewal on the weekend. I mean, I spoke a tiny bit. Mainly I soaked my soul in words and music and the fellowship of a gathering of beautiful people. My soul needed that bath. And it came away fresh and perfumed and lotioned with Holy Spirit joy.

But the tiny speaking bit was fun too. I shared some words about joy and Jesus and the cool thing was having my husband sit in one of the classes. I’ve never taught a class to my husband before. It was odd, for sure, but kind of wonderful at the same time. To look out into the crowd and to see his face there.

I think I saw good things in his face.

After, when they asked a couple of people to come up and pray over me, my husband mouthed an apology to me from his seat. I’d cry, he said, and that was the most wonderful, prayerful compliment I could have received.

January 2, 1993

January 2, 1993

Just like that.

Just like that time he’d asked, suggested is more like it, and it wasn’t a knee-bending thing or a fuss.

Just like that time he’d said let’s move to a new place, and then he said it again and again and again.

Just like that time he’d held the new baby and cried a little over the perfect tiny toes and told the nurse he hadn’t realized it would feel like it does.

Just like that time they’d fought and made up and fought and made up again and … you know.

Just like that time the baby drained away from her, the one she thought would be a girl, and he didn’t know what to say but he brought her an angel to hang on her wall. To remember.

Just like that time he didn’t understand her but he tried.

Just like that time she’d cried in the night and he’d held her.

Just like that time they’d held hands, and laughed, and ran away from the children for a while.

Just like that time she told him it would all be okay. And the time he told her.

And after twenty-one years, it is.

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You know that, right?

Because, if I was any good at it (life? parenting? everything?) I wouldn’t make so many mistakes.

Like getting a few kilometres down the highway on my way to Monday’s Remembrance Day service, only to have the vehicle begin her I’m-almost-out-of-fuel convulsions, requiring me to turn around and hiccup my way home on fumes and prayer.

Like forgetting my sister’s birthday, that time she was visiting me for a few days, and only remembering after she’d left.

Like losing the pre-bought Christmas presents – because I’m so organized (heavy sarcasm) and bought them early and hid them somewhere really good – only to find them the next May while I was spring cleaning.

Like booking three events on the same weekend and forgetting about them all.

Like inviting company to come for dinner and forgetting to turn on the oven.

Like losing my temper with my children or my husband or the teller at the bank.

Like not getting the laundry done, requiring my son to go commando to church. (Not that he minded, but I was sure people would find out our dark laundry secret.)

Like going months without really reading scripture or praying. And doubting. And faking.

Lately I’ve had some you’re so wonderful comments because of what I write in this little space, day after day. And, to be honest, I’ve had some negative ones, too. Some, you think you’re so great but I know you’re really not that special kinds of insinuations, and some you’re wrong, wrong, wrong emails, and some quit being so this or that messages.

That’s how it goes when you write stuff and put it on the internet and people read it.

Truth is, I y’am who I y’am (thanks for that, Popeye) and for the most part, I’ve learned to be content.

We are all different, and we love and share and rage and cry and create, each in our own ways. Cooking, painting, writing, parenting. There’s art in it all.

You are wonderful. Really, you are. You do some things well and some not so well, and you have a bunch of stuff you think you should be better at, and maybe you wish your legs were longer or you nose was shorter or your hair was thicker.

Maybe you think you’re not a good friend or a good mom or a good Christian. Maybe you think everyone else does it better. Maybe you’re in a sad place or a bad place or a hard place or maybe your place is pretty darn good right now.

I don’t know your place, but I do know your journey. Because we’re all on one, and the truth is, no place is permanent. Life is movement. It’s entering and being and leaving, always, over and over. Until you’re dead.

So the next time I write about my awesome kids or my wonderful husband or my beautiful life… know that sometimes – lots of times – it isn’t.

Grace.

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I remember, from when the kids were small, wishing for more colour.  Boy clothes, in my experience, are pretty much navy or brown. Or, if they are clothes with a little colour about them, they are soon dirty. Which makes them, again, brown.

I’d gaze at the girl clothes, racks and racks of them, all soft material and bright colours and so cute, and then I’d buy more jeans and t-shirts, and wonder how long till these had holes in them like the rest.

I had a girl once, for a year, and it was fun, dressing up and doing hair and taking joy in pretty.

My boy world, though, is pretty brown. But beautiful, still.

The prairie is browning around me. Shades of gold and faded, like an old monochromatic photograph. The leaves are leaving their tree homes, resting yellow on beds of trampled, brittle grass. Flying up again, though, for a final dance, old folks dosey doe-ing. Swing your partner round and round. Last call, ladies.

I’m tempted to miss summer’s youth. Bright and fresh and full of possibility. When they were babies and we had all the time in the world to get it right.

I’m settling into brown, though, and finding the blessing of this colour.

It’s a gentle, familiar colour, reminding me of my men and hard work and hard play and the harvest of the bright summer.

It’s the colour of reaping what was sown, of pulling up from the ground and shaking off the dirt and enjoying what was worked for.

You know I’m not just talking gardens, right?

You know I’m talking children growing and marriage mellowing and the preserving of the years of planting and watering and tending, right?

We aren’t finished, of course. There is still green and colour and growing to do, but I am more conscious now of the reaping. The blessing of the harvest. The enjoyment of the brown.

This colour, the colour of harvest, is part of my life, too. I don’t want to miss its beauty.

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It’s slow at the beginning. We sit in cramped pews and gaze at painted walls and ceiling and windows, and wait. Wait for the music and the men and the maids and the bride. Chat among ourselves, quiet, and check phones for google answers to silly boy questions, and remember back twenty years to our own beginning.

It starts, swelling music and in they come, groom and his men, and beautiful girls, and cherished woman on the arm of the man who loved her first, on her way to the man who will love her forever. And it’s words and promises and signatures and beautiful music.

I watch from far back, peeking through the rows of all the people ahead and I snap a picture, thinking it will amount to nothing, but when I look later, scrolling though all the blurry shots of the day, it stops me.

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Because when I crop out the heads and the shoulders and I see what is left, it’s everything. Two together, hands and hearts and lives joining in love and promise under the umbrella of all His holiness.

Sanctus. Holy.

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And then what began slowly, deliberately, practiced … ends in a rush of new beginning as they sweep by, almost running to the future. As they pass, all young and excited and new in this, I pray a few words for the next day and the next. For the two of them and for where their love will take them.

New is only new for a short time, but holy is forever.

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I remember the commitment I made so many years ago, the long walk up to the front of the church building on a Sunday evening to give him my life and my love always and to make him my King and the walk into the water and the words spoken over me by my dad and the going under and the coming up and the newness of the new life I’d heard about my whole life.

And how it wasn’t long before the new wasn’t new and I’d messed up and made mistakes and said sorry more times than I could count.

I remember standing at the front of the church, at the beginning of it all, you know, before God and everyone, and wanting to do it right. To love and honour and cherish, till death did us part, and feeling the sting of failure before the week next was barely spent.

I remember finally getting pregnant, after the long wait and the wondering if ever, and thinking this gift, this precious life,  would be treasured, every minute of every day. And then one day I lost my mind a little in the chaotic mess of real life and I spoke harsh words and the mommy promise was broken then and over and over through the three boys and the many years.

I wish I could remember better.

I wish the promises made at the beginnings were better remembered in the middles of it all.

I am thinking of a man today. A man I didn’t really know – had only just met, actually. His name was Trent and a few days ago we were singing together around a campfire on the shore of a beautiful northern Saskatchewan lake. He was leading songs for the kids, silly songs with silly, made-up verses, and then, in a blink, he was down.

This week Trent’s wife and two boys will attend his funeral. They will put their new lives into practice as best they can, and their friends and families will help them as best they can, and life will go on … as best it can.

And I will try to remember better.

I will try, after the cold water shock of seeing how quickly it can all change, to celebrate and cherish and love those to whom I’ve made these promises.

This is the gift I’ve been given by a man I barely knew. The reminder of what really matters and what really doesn’t.

Wishing peace and love and the hope of Jesus on the family of Trent Konecnik, today and in the days to come.