Family

January 07 2014
45

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You think you know so much when you’re twenty years old. When that third decade begins, you’re a little bit full of yourself, impressed with what you’ve learned in school and in life, and convinced that you’ll be able to handle whatever life throws your way.

And, if you were a 20-year-old raised in the 50s and 60s, you also understood the order of things, especially if you were a female. Even more especially if you were a female raised in the conservative wing of the Christian church. Your life was pretty well mapped out for you: childhood, adolescence, a little bit of young adulthood, marriage, motherhood.

Being an eldest child with a strong sense of propriety and extraordinarily overactive responsibility glands, you did exactly what was expected of you. So, in the year you turned 20, you got yourself married. You found a good, Christian man, dated him (carefully!) for a good long time, got engaged and then, of course, you “settled down.”

Well, five out of six ain’t bad, right? The meeting, finding, dating, engaging, marrying thing you did according to plan. It’s the settling down part you’ve struggled with for the last — how many is it now? — FORTY-EIGHT years.

I chalk it up to delayed and extended adolescent rebellion, that’s what. As an eager-to-please, hyper-obedient child and youth, you never truly rebelled against anything or anyone. And that remarkable man you married? He wasn’t exactly a rabble-rouser, either, was he?

Yet somehow, you’ve traveled this wild and wooly, sometimes adventurous, always unique journey-through-life that began with an afternoon of “I do’s” at the end of 1965. Now you’re taking a gander at 2014, as it rises out of the fog and begins to take shape. Holy crap, next year, you’ll hit the big 5-0. Can you believe it? Doesn’t that happen to old people?

I look at the pictures from this most recent anniversary and I still see those kids in there, those good kids who so wanted to do ‘the right thing,’ whatever the heck that was. Yes, the years have added pounds to our frames and lines to our faces and a whole lotta white hair to the head of at least one of us.

But you know what else I see? A couple of undercover rebels, that’s what. We obeyed the rules, we followed the protocol, yet somehow, we never managed to settle down, did we? At least, not in the way our parents envisioned settling.

Yes, we bought houses and fixed them up. Yes, we found churches and did our fair share of serving and leading. Yes, we had those kids — glorious, exhausting, challenging, lovable, fabulous people, all three of them.

But we also broke with convention and re-invented ourselves several times over the course of these years. We began, eight months in, with that freighter, sailing for eighteen interminable days, no sight of land, and one of us sicker than a junkyard dog. Then, as it turned out, California conservative didn’t look a thing like missionary conservative, and our two years of living cross-culturally (times two — Zambian culture + missionary culture) gave us a golden opportunity to experience being on the ‘liberal’ side of the ledger.

We came home with a new baby. I stayed home, had two more babies when having that many raised eyebrows in lots of places. Maybe we came as close to ‘settling down’ as we ever have during those years of small children. Even then, though, we took a giant leap to a new and better job for you, losing our medical insurance when I was pregnant with number three. Yes, we were a little bit scared, but we knew it was the next right thing for us to do.

We just kept doing that, didn’t we? When one of us began to feel uncertain, when we began to question what we’d been taught about how things ‘should’ work in life, in marriage, in church governance — we hashed it out.  We read and we talked and we prayed and we wondered.

And we found a new church for our family at year ten, a life-changing decision in so many ways. A church that encouraged both of us to use our gifts for the kingdom of God, a church that opened our eyes to new ideas and a wider view of God’s grace and goodness.

When the kids grew up and grew out, we felt invited to consider a new way to do life together. I went to grad school, experienced a call to ministry, we became grandparents, and then, all of a sudden, we were moving 125 miles away from the city we called home and you were commuting to work every week. So that I could be a pastor, can you believe it?

Now, we are both ‘retired.’ And you are taking care of young children at our littlest grandgirl’s preschool one day a week, and I am offering spiritual direction in our home. Somewhere in there, I owned a floral business and you served on multiple boards for non-profits, offering your financial expertise and leadership gifts. And we have enjoyed seven more grandkids, the eldest of whom is just about to graduate from college.

From this vantage point, I look back at our 20-something selves with more than a little bit of awe at our outrageous self-confidence and chutzpah! Because now I realize we knew nothing then.

Nothing except this: we loved each other and God loved us both.

And you know what? That was all we ever needed.

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45 comments

  1. Oh Diana,

    This is lovely, and so very encouraging to this single girl who is doing a lot of that growing and reinvention on her own. It’s nice to know that it won’t all be done if I do get married. (And you can bet it will be to a rebel). xoxo.

    Reply
    • Honey, it’s NEVER all done. You will keep growing, transforming, reinventing as long as you breathe – and there are partners out there who will encourage that in you and in themselves. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I loved reading this! What a spunky grandmother you must be, to be able to write like this. I just turned thirty and I can relate… funny, how I think I know everything now too! :)

    Reply
    • Spunky, huh? Never thought of myself that way, but maybe. I think we’re pretty convinced we know everything until about age 40 or so. And then we’re hit hard with how very much we do not know and never will. And by age 50, that’s a good thing, actually. There is always so much more to live, you know? Thanks for your comment today!

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  3. Ah, Diana, this reflection on your married years makes me so happy for you and a smidge melancholy about myself. I did actually settle down and wish I had more of your chutzpah. You lived a rich life your way in a time when expectations were clear. I hope that my husband and I look beyond the expectations placed on us by others and move forward into some awesomeness of our own.

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    • Ann, you are always reinventing yourself – can’t you see that? Good grief, woman – you wrote TWO BOOKS when your children were small, you have always written/edited/coached even while homeschooling your kiddos. I will definitely encourage you to look beyond the expectations of others – amen, and hallelujah! – but please step back a tiny bit and take a good, long look at all you have done and are doing to be a vital, listening, adaptive, fascinating woman.

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  4. Ro elliott

    Beautiful…beautiful …over our 32 yrs…we have been married to many different people in the same body…and this line right here is the glue that binds us together…we loved each other and God loved us both!!!’

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    • Alita Rhodes

      I loved your story, Diana; in so many ways it mirrors our marriage and journey. I admire your honesty and your reaching out to women.

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      • Hey Alita – how nice to see you here!! Thanks for the kind words – and yes, I think we do have some parallels in our story. Congrats on that big 50 this year!!

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    • Exactly, Ro – married to different people in the same bodies (well, sorta the same :>). That’s who we are, right? Works in progress, learning and growing and changing as needed. Thanks for you always insightful comments, friend.

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  5. all you needed then
    all we all need now
    beautiful Diana!

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  6. Oh, how I want to be just like you… What an incredible love story!!!

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    • Sweetie – do not aspire to be like me, heaven forbid! Be YOU, totally awesome JJ, okay? And please don’t read this piece and think everything has been smiles and roses. FAR from it. We’ve worked hard to get to today and not all of it was fun. But I will say, it was all good and necessary. Just not always so lovely to walk through, you know?

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      • That’s what I love! You’re REAL and still you’ve made it through the not so fun stuff and have survived! ;-)

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  7. LOVE this! I so enjoy learning more about your life and marriage, Diana.

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    • Thank you, Leigh. As I submitted this, I thought it was just dang redundant, like I’ve told these stories before and aren’t you all sick of hearing them?? But it’s what came, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your sweet encouragement along the way, my friend.

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  8. Gwen Acres

    “…we loved each other and God loved us both”… all things are possible because of that sacred, short statement. What a wonderful and fruitful life you have lead, Diana. Even in the reinventing and “rebellious” times you stayed within the lines and all was growth. In principle I wish I had lived your life.

    Reply
    • I’ll say to you what I said to J.J., Gwen. My life is my life, your life is yours. You sorta had to live it to get to where you are today, right? And you’re in a good place in so many ways today. Thanks for your continuing encouragement, friend.

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  9. Diana – This is wonderful. I love your conclusion – that the 20-something know it alls really knew nothing. But you did, you knew everything – everything you needed to know to just live the life you wanted. I think our younger selves knew something about courage and bravery and “chutzpah” as you said that our current selves can’t even relate to. And without it, we wouldn’t be where we are.

    Keep writing, friend. Keep telling these stories. We need them.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Charity. And I think you’re right on about our younger selves being far more courageous than we knew, and far more than we can even wrap our heads around now! I’m so grateful for your friendship and encouragement.

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  10. Loved this so much. Makes me want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you both!

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    • Well, sure, Brenna. Anytime you happen to be on the central coast of CA, give us a call!! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  11. Just lovely.

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  12. Newell Hendricks

    “As an eager-to-please, hyper-obedient child and youth, you never truly rebelled against anything or anyone.”

    That’s not the way I remember you in high school!!! You had plenty of spunk then and were ready to respond to anything you didn’t think was right. I was even a bit afraid of you.
    Newell

    Reply
    • You were afraid of me, Newell?? I am so sorry!! But somehow you managed to ask me to that senior prom anyhow, eh? Good for you! Did you know that was my first ever date? Pretty good guy for a first date. I remember being loud, a little bossy (well, maybe more than a little), and willing to do a lot of silly things. But here’s my strongest memory of myself in high school – going on an Easter break mission trip to San Francisco, trying to help Helen Simpson in the kitchen and her being SHOCKED that I hadn’t a clue how to dice pickles for the tuna salad. I felt woefully uneducated and inexperienced almost all the time, Newell. If writing or reading was required (or singing in choir) I felt moderately capable, but the rest of it? The social stuff, the math stuff, science stuff, phys ed stuff? Just.Plain.Awful.

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  13. Sheila Dailie

    “Being an eldest child with a strong sense of propriety and extraordinarily overactive responsibility glands, you did exactly what was expected of you. So, in the year you turned 20, you got yourself married. You found a good, Christian man, dated him (carefully!) for a good long time, got engaged and then, of course, you “settled down.”

    And then the journey continues. Loved your gracious unfolding of God’s working in your lives. And so thankful that I get to take little peeks in as a reminder that God’s plan is on-going.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sheila – it has been a gracious and gradual unfolding for us. A lot of it has been painful and difficult, but all of it has been remarkable and ultimately, good. Thanks for stopping by and commenting tonight.

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  14. GAH! In so many ways, my life and yours parallel. SO many ways.

    And all that life and luster I still see in your eyes and in his? I want that today and all my days. I hope – when the time comes – that I mirror that part of your story, too, friend.

    Thank you for this, Diana.

    Reply
    • Interesting that there should be that many parallels across those couple of generations between us, Kelli. I have a hunch you’ll be doing just fine when you get as far down the road as we are. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  15. I love you Diana. Your words, your life, the way you give it away generously, it’s a gift for all of us who know you. Absolutely adore this snapshot of your journey together. It encourages me and makes me exhale a bit deeper. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much, sweet Shelly! Your words bring tears to my eyes, tears of gratitude for you. You’re welcome, my friend.

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  16. We just passed 42, so you’ve got a few years on us. Our journey, of course, has been much different, but my life is richer because our paths have crossed. Love you big, friend.

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    • There are no words large enough for me to say how thankful I am for your presence in my life, Sandy. I think you were one of the very first people I engaged in ‘comment conversation’ with when I first began blogging regularly in January of 2011. Thanks for your faithful encouragement over these years, my friend. I love you MORE!

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  17. Peggy Stott

    This touches my heart and soul and gives me a measure of peace that as the eldest dutiful fifties/sixties daughter I have been guided within the chute of my existence in varying American cultures over he years and all is well. Yes, all is well and all is well. Praise God.

    Reply
    • Amen to that, Peggy. All is indeed well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  18. Anne-Marie

    Diana, thanks for a hopeful and honest look back! We are at a transition point and its a bit scary! After giving up a hard-won career twenty years ago for two beloved boys, who turned out to be way complicated. It’s a bit tough to figure out where to go from here now they are moving on. Thanks for giving hope and a wonderful example of a life courageously lived, in faithful partnership.

    Reply
    • This is a precious, important time, Anne-Marie – this in-between time. May you be blessed in your discernment process about what comes next. Because believe me, something does! Something wonderful – get ready for it!

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  19. Anne-Marie

    Thank you Diana. Wonderful encouragement. We are at 25 years and have come through some tough ones. Blessings on your upcoming 50. What a light!

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    • When we were at the 25 year mark, we were in marriage counseling! It’s a tough transition, this re-defining ourselves after the kids grow up and move on. It requires re-tooling all kinds of things as you are undoubtedly discovering. Many, many blessings as you push through and discover that God is far from done with you!!!

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  20. Diana, I found this post through your blog (only just stumbled across it this evening). I really enjoyed and appreciated this post. I can relate a lot with the early part of your story: the hubby and I have been married for almost exactly two months now. We’re young (I’m 26, he’s 29), we’re newly married, and we really don’t know much beyond that we love each other very much and that God loves us both.

    It also feels sometimes like the clock is ticking, like people are expecting us to “settled down” soon. But even when we have kids, there are still so much living to do, so many adventures to have. I loved reading about your marriage and getting the briefest glimpse into your relationship and life over the years; a good reminder that life and the adventures — messy, challenging, and wonderful — don’t stop. Ever.

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