Surprise! A second post in a week. I would love to blog weekly, but alas, retirement is such a busy job. We have more projects going than hours in the day but as this is a special day and a cold, rainy one, I have the time to share with you.
You will smile at this story:
Tom and I were in a salon the first week of January in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. (For those who may not know, Tom retired the second time in August, 2016, and we moved to this small town south of Nashville.) We had gotten haircuts with different stylists, and as the shop was not busy, the four of us began a conversation. Both young ladies enjoy rustic wood ideas and were interested in our shop projects; we showed them various gifts we had made at Christmas.
After laughter and shared ideas, one ventured a bit timidly, “May I ask you something?” They had already told us what they would like so I thought this would be for a bigger project.
“Are you two newly married?” We grinned at each other. O, I think we laughed at that one. The hairdressers could not believe that we had been married almost 53 years. (Tuesday, March 14,-today in Europe is the 53 year mark.)
“Why do you ask?” I wanted to know.
“You are just kind to each other,” was the reply. “You are so cute together,” a true millennial comment.
I love this story, and I have thought much about the reason she gave. I don’t do many things well, other than cook and clean house, well, maybe iron, now and then. But I have learned ‘to do’ marriage well. Emphasis on the learned. After graduating from college at 41, I realized I could be a professional student, I have jokingly said. But in reality that is what I have been for 53 years. A student of life and marriage. A student of Tom Suiter. “Study your man,” I have advised women for years.
Marriage manuals abound in today’s market and no topic, idea and opinion are left uncovered. But in 1964, the choices were distressingly few and amazingly taboo –on some topics. Not until 1977, did James Dobson begin his family ministry. The controversial family voice, Dr. Benjamin Spock, was the only advice available for young couples and parents–that I remember.
How to do marriage. I needed to learn. After all, my parents had divorced when I was 16; Tom’s parents were together when we married but divorced about 12 years later. We had no expert example to follow. I read everything available on marriage—secular and within the church. Some of you will remember The Ladies’ Home Journal and the article each month, ‘Can this Marriage be Saved’? The monthly Reader’s Digest usually had an article on some aspect of married life. Home Life, a Christian magazine, offered personal testimonies and stories on communication, finances, in-laws, and eventually on sex. I silently, intentionally ‘listened’ to all and learned how to be the wife I needed to be.
There was one author and Christian voice during our early years that rang true and confident. Charlie Shedd wrote numerous books on marriage and relationships. Letters to Karen: A Father’s Advice on Keeping Love in Marriage, written to his daughter in 1965 has sold millions, as well as Letters to Philip, his son. “He mentored a Christian generation in the art of keeping Christ and joy in the heart of relationships.” (Balcony Publishing Co.) I am thankful even today for this man’s influence in my life and in our marriage.
As new books came on the market, I kept reading. Willard Harley’s, His Needs, Her Needs in 1986 added more information I processed. Later in 1995, Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages presented me with valuable knowledge. We developed a small library on this subject. I don’t read as many books on ‘how to’ do married today, but I continue to read fascinating articles on this favorite subject.
Often we are asked, “What is your secret?” Did we just get it right before ‘I do’? Tom and I came into marriage innocent, pure, trusting and assuming all would work out. Or did we make the ‘I do’ promise—right? We were 18 and 19; how could we possibly know how to succeed at such a massive undertaking? We learned together how to love, disagree, talk it out; we were committed to make our relationship succeed. We read books together, especially when driving on long trips, with one, two, three or four children in the backseat.
One of our favorite verses for marriage is Deuteronomy 24:5 under a section of miscellaneous laws: “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year, he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” The Amplified Bible says he is to bring cheer to his wife. Isn’t this a fun verse for a marriage seminar!
And a favorite verse I often remind Tom , “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing.” Proverbs 18:22. He comes back with, “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than to share a house with a disagreeing, quarrelsome and scolding woman. Proverbs 25: 24. Reading, learning and study have insured he doesn’t live on the rooftop.
I encourage young couples today to become a student of marriage –your marriage. Study your man–guess that works for you, men, to study your girl! Marriages of 10, 20, or 40 years can benefit from the plethora of information available.
Fifty three years. What an incredible journey of hard work, commitment, fun, fighting and friendship. I guess we have succeeded if we, two 70+ year-olds, leave an impression that we are newly married.
“Be ye kind one to another”. (Ephesians 4:32) The Amplified Bible truly amplifies this verse for marriage: “Become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted, compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted, forgiving one another-readily and freely, as God in Christ forgave you.
A few Sundays ago we took a selfie–our first in 53 years!! But Tom’s brother, Dwight, said this is a we-fie. I present our first we-fie!
Learning. . . loving. . .on the journey. Together.