September 21, 2020

In the “Third Season” of Life Together

“This is my beloved and this is my friend…” (Song 5:16)

This is the verse that caught my attention when my wife Gail and I fell in love many years ago. The words express what we both have always wanted in marriage: a partnership characterized by genuine love and friendship.

And now we are approaching an empty nest. Married 33 years today, Gail and I have begun and are looking forward to what will happen in the “third season” of our adult life together.

The first season was when we met, courted, married, and began life together in a small village in Vermont.

I met Gail (folks called her “Gig” then) at Bible college in Pennsylvania. One Saturday morning, my roommate forced me, a new student, out of bed to attend tryouts for a singing group that would travel to different churches and represent the college. I made the cut, and soon became intrigued by the cute, energetic pianist that accompanied and sang with us. Over the course of that school year, she and I fell in love and have been together ever since.

We survived traveling together in another gospel team that next summer, assisting with her parents’ move to a new house (quite an experience!), and being separated during my senior year. She was a year ahead of me and had already graduated. So she went back to Vermont to pursue a one-year nursing degree. After I graduated and spent a summer helping my ailing pastor in my home church, I moved to Vermont in the fall of 1978, and stayed with her family until I received a call to our first church, a small Baptist congregation in southern Vermont. We were married in December, 1978.

We didn’t have children for awhile, so those first years were like an extended honeymoon.

When we returned from our actual honeymoon over Christmas in colonial Williamsburg, we settled in to our “idyllic” surroundings. The parsonage we lived in had no heat upstairs except for a hole in the floor where the old stove pipe used to be, so in the frigid Vermont winter we wore more clothes to bed than when we were awake! (Maybe that’s why we didn’t have children right away!)

In that village I somehow learned to preach and pastor, while Gail worked as a nurse in town about a half hour away. Her folks lived down by town, so we had family nearby — the only time in our lives when that has been the case. We didn’t have a TV or much furniture. At church, Gail played piano and organ, directed the choir, and helped her shy husband connect with other people. We had a couple of cats during those years, named after hobbits, to keep us company. On our first Christmas, I bought her a piano (and took out the first of many loans to come). We made lifelong friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to adult and married life.

After a few years, it became clear to me that I needed more schooling, so I told the church I would be going to seminary. We would leave for Chicago in the summer of 1983. But first, in November of 1982, Gail gave birth to our first child, a baby girl.

She came to us in the middle of an infamous ice storm — and the bridge on the main road was out. So we called friends up the road for help. Sonny brought his truck, loaded Gail in next to his wife, and inched his way down the side of the icy, unpaved hill road, pausing every time she had a contraction. I followed nervously behind. We somehow slid our way to the bottom of the hill, and then I took her the rest of the way. The small hospital was so full of women giving birth that stormy night that the halls of the unit were lined with beds of moaning new mothers-to-be. Nevertheless, we secured our birthing room (which in those days meant an empty room with just a bed in it), and soon had a beautiful daughter.

The second season of our life had begun.

When I look back on life from our late 20’s to our early 50’s, I see a blur of school, work, children, church, and a the faces of many, many people I came to love and appreciate. Somehow, Gail and I both achieved graduate degrees, raised four children, served in several congregations, watched a thousand ballgames and attended just as many church and school programs and concerts, traveled the world on mission trips, moved five times, and got to know a host of wonderful friends.

We grew up. We experienced the loss of family members and the disillusionment of personal failures and dashed dreams. We made friends in places like India, Nepal, and Brazil. We worried about our children until we were sick. We rejoiced in their successes and accomplishments, and delighted to see the people they were becoming. We served in various churches and eventually decided evangelicalism was not for us. We sojourned in a few wilderness places along the way and somehow made it out alive each time. Gail became a counselor and started her own business. We became grandparents. I left the pastorate but not the ministry — taking up a position as a chaplain in hospice work.

I’m flying over this season and leaving out all the details by necessity. Suffice to say that the changes and challenges have been many. In some folks’ way of counting success, I don’t have a lot to show for those central years of my life. That bothers me sometimes.

However, there is one aspect of it all about which I have no regrets — only joy. That is the fact that I have had a loving, faithful partner and friend through it all.

 

 

I can’t wait to see all that this third season will bring.

Happy anniversary to my beloved and friend.

Comments

  1. CM is that you and Gail wearing….PLAID!!! 😯 Forgive me if I stare…i haven’t seen plaid in a while 😉

  2. Congratulations to you both and may it be a season of yet deeper love and affection.

  3. Congrats to our fellow travelers down this crazy and wonderful road we call “holy matrimony”! It doesn’t END on the day with the veil and flowers, it just barely begins… <3

    LOVE the pictures, but unlike Eagle I can't laugh, because I have ones just like them. The early 80's were the era of really loud sweaters on men and women.

    Tom and I are right behind you on the time-line, as we will celebrate our 32nd anniversary at the end of this month. See, boys and girls, if you get married around Christmas time the church is ALREADY decorated, and color scheme writes itself. Also ups the chances that work will not cause you to be apart on that December date in the future. AND…you get to file joint taxes for the whole previous year! 🙂

  4. Happy anniversary to you both!

  5. Congratulations to you and Gail, Chaplain Mike! I love the photos. May you continue to have many happy years together!

  6. Chaplain Mike and Gail ~ Happy Anniversary!! What a joy to hear of a couple that stuck it out when the going got tough. Well done. And I have a strong feeling that those “central years of seeming no success” will turn out to somehow be the most important of your lives. God’s mysterious upside-down ways.

  7. brilliantvapor says

    Sitting right in the transition between seasons one and two, I love hearing stories like this of those who have “gone before.” Thanks, Mike. And happy anniversary!

  8. Sweet, sweet life. Blessings on you both!

  9. beautiful true story

  10. forgot to say “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY” !

  11. Mike and Gail, My brother and sister n law…. I am touched by knowing more of the events that took place and some of which I knew but realize now how precious they were for you. Glad to have shared some of the times with you as you both grew in marriage and family in Vermont, Illinois and hope one day to see you in your home in Indiana. God Bless you in this 3rd season of marriage. You both are a true inspiration in my life. Love to you both.

  12. Congratulations, and Many Years!

    My husband and I were married in May 1978.

    Dana

  13. That Other Jean says

    Congratulations and happy anniversary! If you are still loving friends after all these years, you’re doing outstandingly well. You’ll be fine as empty-nesters. It’s different, but it’s still good. We’re still finding things to be grateful for after 44 years together.

  14. We’ve been married 33 years today also. Empty nest coming in May 2012. May your years ahead cintinue to be a blessing.

  15. Richard Mcneeley says

    Congratulations on your 33rd Anniversary. I also married a Gail and we celebrated 31 years this past May with an empty nest coming in August 2012 when our youngest leaves for college.

  16. Congratulations! – what a wonderful testimony of lives lived well and I send my best wishes for all the years to come!