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Death of a Marriage.

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This morning we were christened with our first winter snow flurries of Tennessee. As the icy crisp air wisps around its little slushy drops, I sit at this window and ponder the silence. Yes, for the first time in a long while, it is … quiet.

Before the gray skies had lit enough to reveal the wintry weather, the girls of this family were bustling about gathering sharpened pencils and unwrapping clean, new notebooks. Washing locks and coordinating frocks. Packing bags and packing lunches for what would be the first page of a new chapter where I am not the central character. The girls were going to school.

This is not a new path for us, as we visited here a couple of years ago. It was similar circumstances for us, different circumstances for the children. For the music to be successful it sometimes has to venture away from a hobby and become more of a job. While it is always fun and fulfilling, it is in those busy seasons that everything counts, deadlines are unforgiving, and the investments are nonrefundable. And it is in those moments that I become spread too thin and overwhelmed and burned out. Back then we put them in school for a time. And so now we do again.

I heard a story recently of a pastor who had been through five marriages. Except that they were all to the same woman. He proceeded to explain that any long-term relationship faces twists and turns. Mountains and valleys. Deaths and rebirths. He described their honeymoon years as the first marriage filled with mushy love and fantasy, which then spawned three children in three years. These changes killed that marriage and birthed a new one. In that marriage, they learned sacrifice and selflessness and how to survive on three hours of sleep. He described another marriage that began as their daughters entered school where he and his wife became reacquainted with each other—as parents and helpmates. This time ushered in a more respecting love. Seasoned and maturing. Until their girls turned into teens. He reflected briefly on the quick and painful death of that marriage and the following years of tumult and anxiety as the fourth marriage took shape. He confirmed that none of them wanted to relive that marriage! But as the sun continued to rise and set, their teenagers became women who flew away from the nest and turned the page to yet another marriage in their relationship. This fifth marriage was defined by a nurturing admiration and endearing love. For simple love notes left on the pillow case. For the grandchildren whose drawings covered the fridge. For quiet conversations over dinners for two. For the hand that held on all along the way.

When once before I returned home after dropping the children off for a first day in real school, I faced a wave of guilt as I set my keys on the counter. I plodded through the following string of school days lost and depressed without the rambunctious questions and messes determining my schedule. But today is a different day. A different season. A different marriage.

I wonder if honeymooners know when they dream of having a baby, that there will be times when their child will unwittingly hold the dagger over their hearts and their marriage. That some days parenting drills holes in the bucket of your energy and love. That no matter how hard you strain and reach and plan and hope and smile, some seasons are just going to stretch you beyond what is comfortable. Or satisfying. Or dreamy.

As the gray skies persist outside this window, I sit in this quiet space pondering what this new marriage will look like. A marriage that has been birthed not by a blue elementary enrollment form, but by a child who has come to an age where parents obviously don’t know anything and her sisters apparently wake up each day with the sole intention of annoying her. And I realized that somewhere between the first rolling of eyes and the most recent slamming of doors, the idealistic marriage that was caught in the lazy current of yesterday has now been swept out to sea.

And so today’s solitary return home does not beckon guilt or even apprehension. For this wife is seasoned. Maturing. I will embrace the silence and utilize the time recovered to fortify the home front for the coming storm. Perhaps this chapter does not have to be imminently tumultuous. Perhaps the sun can occasionally shine through and flowers may bloom despite the winter. But an inevitable quality of this new story will be the new characters that are taking shape on the stage before me. And whether they play the heroes or the villains is not always mine to write. They must take up their own pen and begin their own stories. And someday when their book is titled and bound, I will still be here, stringing words together about a girl and a boy and the hand that held on all along the way.

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