Toward a More Perfect Union . . .

by Diana

The heat is rising in waves from the concrete deck, shimmering in that strange, invisible way that heat waves do. The whole of southern California is turning up the AC, blowing fans over bowls of ice, taking quick dips in the pool or bathtub, trying to even out the air temp in as many creative ways as possible.

Here, in our coastal town, we’ve had temperatures in the 90’s for almost a week now – unusual in early July. Often our national holiday is shrouded in fog; the annual fireworks display can only be seen in bits and pieces, when an occasional rocket climbs above the layers of goop circling round the end of the pier.

This year, however, the show should be grand. But we will not be there.

We’ve seen lots of fireworks in our day, and sent more than a few brilliant displays into the  skies ourselves. Yet these days, listening to the pops and bangs and whizzes is almost as much fun as seeing their aerial display. Maybe we’ll watch the televised ones from DC and NYC, who knows? I only know we won’t be joining the throngs who will jam the beachfront boulevard and then struggle to make their way, ever-so-slowly, up to the freeway and home again, home again.

At this end of 47+ years together, we are increasingly careful about how we spend our time and energy, wanting not to waste any of it with crowds and confusion. Maybe that makes us old fogies. In fact, I am SURE it makes us old fogies. And you know what? I am more comfortable with that idea than I ever dreamed I might be. Believe me, it’s not all bad, being a fogey. It has its perks.

Like . . .

. . . Living long enough to see this grand country of our birth for what it is: flawed and imperfect, fractious and frustrating, yet still about the best place on earth to call home. We’ve lived overseas, traveled to over twenty foreign countries and reveled in the history and wonder of each place. Yet, every time we come home, we whisper words of thanks for that Declaration of 1776.

. . . Stretching into longer periods of quiet than we have ever enjoyed before; luxuriating in the small beauties of our yard and home; listening for the seasonal arrival of the shy oriole or the fiercely territorial hummingbirds that buzz our feeders and border gardens.

. . . Appreciating the great gift of well-burnished love; saying ‘thank you’ for our shared commitment over time and through valleys, dark and glorious; floating buoyantly across the deep reservoir of shared memories, stories, experiences; singing old songs by heart, even when we don’t always remember the words; finding a good rhythm of give-and-take, alone-and-together, talking and listening, working and resting.

. . . Knowing that most of the time, a bad mood is a very temporary thing, and understanding the truth that there is usually a good reason for it. Becoming more patient with the scared little boy and small girl who still live inside these aging bodies, and then, intentionally reaching out with a gesture, a word of encouragement, a small joke — reminders that we don’t do this alone, do we?

. . . Discovering that we both cry a whole lot more than we used to; realizing that tears are sometimes much better than words for all kinds of situations and circumstances. And as our eyes fill, offering a hug or a handkerchief or a simple, “I know. Isn’t it amazing?” Or, “I’m sorry this is so hard.” Or, “Isn’t life good? Haven’t we been blessed?”

. . . Acknowledging that those first years of living cross-culturally, followed by a couple of decades of financial stretching, helped us truly learn what tithing looks like, no matter what. Leaning into the generosity of God, through the lean years and the sturdy ones, taught us that giving has little to do with dollars and a whole lot to do with attitude and habit.

. . . Practicing simple things, like grace before meals, gathering with community, worshiping each Sunday and saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ — to God, to one another, to anyone who offers help or kindness throughout our days. And learning to say ‘help me, help me, help me’ with less embarrassment, more humility and a surer sense of our own need.

. . . Knowing, deep down, that the biggest and best moments are not at all what we thought they would be when we were in our 20′s and 30′s. No. More often than not, it is the smallest, most common and least sensational moments that bring the heart-sighs, the teary-eyed smiles, the down-to-your-toes sense of satisfaction and delight. The blue jay who takes peanuts from your hand; the grubby, face-planted kiss from a happy 3-year-old grandgirl; the angle of the light as it hits the window pane in the kitchen; the sound of the fountain burbling in the night air; the knowing look across a crowded room when it’s time to turn for home and bed. And always, the sound of your laughter, pealing down the hallway as you come to tell me of something you’ve heard or read or seen.

. . . And of course, realizing in new ways that there will be an end to this life we share. 2015 will be our 50th. How is that even possible, we say. It was only yesterday, we remark. We’re still so young, surely we are, we insist!

The mirror, the creaky joints, the nightly handful of pills tell us otherwise, of course. Yet in the center of ourselves, we are still every age we’ve ever been, aren’t we? Our over-confident 20-something selves, our over-tired 30-something selves, our over-drawn 40-something selves, our over-joyed 50-something selves and our over-done 60 and 70-something selves – we’re all here. And even though the years ahead of us are fewer than the years behind us, we’re looking forward to every single one.

Even if we are old fogeys.


40 Responses to “Toward a More Perfect Union . . .”

  1. laura July 4, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    as I read your post I realized that I must be an old fogey too! but I loved it anyway and it made me smile.

  2. Diana July 4, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    Wow. I had this set to post an hour from now. Thanks for being such an early bird, Laura. And let’s hear it for fogeys!!

  3. Rupert July 4, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    In this day, when divorce & separation are so prevalent, we need a vision of faithfulness and commitment in marriage, that gives a glimpse of the possibilities during the ups and downs of the early and middle years of marriage. Thank for giving some of that in your story here. From an over tired and over drawn 40 something of 15 years married.

    Perhaps as a follow up piece you could write of what has held you together?

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks so much for such an encouraging comment, Rupert! I will think about your suggestion and see if I can do that at some point in the future. NOT a how to piece, but perhaps another descriptive one that tells a bit more of our story. I appreciate your stopping by.

    • Carolyn Weber July 6, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      here here Rupert!

  4. Cheryl Smith July 4, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    And comfortable shoes. Don’t forget that!

    (Almost 50 years?? How wonderful!)

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 8:28 am #

      Thanks, Cheryl. It is kind of scary of me to look at that number, actually. Fortunately, I know several other couples in our church community who are also close to this milestone, so I don’t feel quite so old when I see it!!

  5. kelli woodford July 4, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    i *knew* there was a reason i liked you.
    we may not have age in common, but each of your points above resonated with me in deep ways. timeless echoes of another who listens to soul rhythms.

    this was my favorite: “Becoming more patient with the scared little boy and small girl who still live inside these aging bodies, and then, intentionally reaching out with a gesture, a word of encouragement, a small joke — reminders that we don’t do this alone, do we?”

    beautiful reflections, Diana. thank you.

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks so much, Kelli. The point you mentioned is critically important for any deep relationship but perhaps most of all, for marriage. We learn deep things about one another over time and recognizing when reactivity stems from early patterns is so helpful when we get frustrated OR when scary, hard things happen. When I used to do pre-marital counseling, recognizing ‘default’ patterns of response was an important piece of the puzzle, so this was about as close as I could get to talking about that truth in essay format!

  6. Don July 4, 2013 at 8:18 am #


  7. Sarah H. July 4, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Well, if you don’t have me in tears at Starbucks…

    Absolutely glorious. On good days I remember to think about life this way. But darned if I’m not an over-tired 30-something much of the time!

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      I remember that feeling of over-tiredness so well. And I surely have had many days like that since my 30s, but trying to come up with a hallmark phrase for each decade forced me to realize that in my 30s, much as I loved them, I was tired a LOT. But I also thoroughly enjoyed that decade – so hang onto that piece, too, okay?

  8. Kim Sullivan July 4, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Love this beautiful and wise piece. You are such a favorite to read and learn from, Diana.

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Ah, thanks, Kim! I appreciate your stopping by, reading and leaving such kind words.

  9. cynthia ferguson July 4, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Wow, that was well said. I am so glad you put my thoughts into such beautiful words!

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Cynthia!

  10. Kathy July 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Diana, Thank you for sharing such depth and wisdom in such a gentle and encouraging way. We join you in thanking God for ALL that we have experienced in almost 40 years of marriage. And yes, I love your comment that pretty much sums it up: “We’re in this together!”

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      That’s sort of at the heart of things, isn’t it, Kathy? We are in it together. Thanks for reading and commenting today.

  11. Susan Contakes July 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Dear Diana,
    Thanks for the post. I really enjoy your ability to put things in the perspective that many years have afforded you. Thanks a lot and have a happy Fourth!

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

      Thanks, dear Susan – I am always glad to be see you around these parts!!

  12. HisFireFly July 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    the simplicity, the deepening love, perfection

  13. Conniejopost July 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    This was beautifully written and its as if you wrote my thoughts as well…. It is our 46th year of marriage…

  14. Conniejopost July 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Beautifully written… So relate as we are in our 46th year of marriage….

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

      Thank you, Connie – always good to meet someone else with as many years under their belt!!

  15. Elizabeth July 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    I loved this Diana! Beautiful.

    • Diana July 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Appreciate your stopping by.

  16. Patricia @ Pollywog Creek July 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    LOVE, love, love this, Diana. Every single word. And it’s so good to be understood. Love you sister!

    • Diana July 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      Thank you, dear Patricia. Always.

  17. Jody Collins July 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Ohhhhhhh, Diana, the tears well up in these eyes, too, and my smiles are deep. Bill and I will celebrate 40 years together on the 14th and I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around something deep to say about that. Now I don’t have to–you captured it all so well. Positively spoke my heart.
    Life is harder, better, deeper, more rhythmic, and filled with the simple things that delight me. (My husband bought me a small gurgling fountain to put on our deck a few days ago…the sound of the water just says, “I love you” every time I hear it.)
    Yes, we are blessed…..(and close behind you!)

    thank you for this, friend.

    • Diana July 5, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Thanks so much, Jody. And you’re not far behind, are you? I hear that when our fountain burbles, too – just love that soft noise.

  18. Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience July 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    love, love, love…

    • Diana July 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      Ann, thank you for reading – I am blessed by your presence. As I always am.

  19. Jamie Wright Bagley July 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    “We’re still every age we’ve ever been.” I love how you put that. And so true! My husband and I are in our thirties. I know it’s not that old yet, but sometimes it feels like it since as you mentioned, we are in the over-tired season. And we must be well on our way to fogey since we cry together- a lot. (Happy or sad or just touched.) Your story is beautiful. Thank you.

    • Diana July 5, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

      That comes directly from Madeleine L’Engle’s writings – I read it 25 years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since, because it is so true! Thanks for reading and for commenting.

  20. Carolyn Weber July 6, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    What a beautiful read. Perfect way to spend a quiet moment. Thanks, Diana. I especially love the image of that timeless center in us that holds all our ages. I often wonder if it is some mix of these ages in the most perfect sense that will be our restored reality? Just a fun thought … who knows. Grateful God does!

    • Diana July 6, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks so much, Caro! How delightful to see your sweet face here in the comments. And I love that thought – and hope you’re right.


  1. Toward A More Perfect Union — A Deeper Family - July 4, 2013

    [...] It’s the first Thursday of the month! And that means I’m writing over at A Deeper Family today. It’s also our national birthday – the Fourth of July – so here is a picture of some fireworks we enjoyed while we were in Dresden, Germany, about two months ago. Please come on over and join me at ADF to read the rest of this reflection . . . [...]

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