Our Little Black Book

I am big on the significance of milestones in life and the opportunity they give for perspective and re-alignment. Last week was one of those milestones. It was not only the first week of a new decade, it was our 32nd wedding anniversary.

Margaret and I went away for a few days to celebrate, relax, and to take a look at where we are at, how we are doing. We actually have a ritual that we follow each year on our anniversary. Since it is so close to the beginning of a new year, Margaret and I take a morning and do a “state of the union” review on our life and marriage.

It’s rather simple. We have this really cheap blank book and in it we capture our perspective on four or five basic categories. Some years we do a bit more, but we always include:

  1. Where are we now?(a brief summary of current reality for each of us and our kids.)
  2. Looking Back: the major events, themes, and developments of the past year.
  3. Looking Ahead: our dreams, priorities and big plans for our life together in the year ahead.
  4. Growth, change, or goals the Lord is prompting us toward during the next year.

    We’ve been around the block enough times now to know that “drift” happens. All that stuff of life creeps up and new patterns develop in your marriage as you react to them: busy travel seasons, challenges at work, illness, financial set-backs, etc. Without some mechanism for getting altitude and re-calibrating life, subtle drifts become dangerous currents.

    Now, Margaret and I weren’t this intentional when we first started, it just seemed like a good idea to do some annual reflection at the beginning of the year. But, over the years we discovered that this tradition is really a sacred time to talk to each other about how we are doing and about the re-alignment that needs to take place as we go forward.

    We started this tradition on January 1st, 1978, six days before our wedding. We were dirt poor, so we rented a table at McDonalds and for a few hours made two pages of notes about the previous year and what we saw ahead for our first year of marriage. Over the years there were a few times when somehow we didn’t get our thoughts written into the book, but even with a couple gaps, we realize now that we have also documented the map of our journey through life together.

    our anniversary book

    That little blank book is pretty ratty these days. We will fill it up in a couple years, if it holds out that long. When it dies or gets filled up, we’ll start volume II. On January 7th thirty-two years from now you will find Margaret and I sitting someplace simple with that second volume asking the same questions and making intentional plans for the year before us.

    Honor Your Father and Mother…

    Sunday was Father’s Day and I had a really good day. My daughter took me out to breakfast. My son called from out of state. We laughed, we kicked back, we ate the best baby-back ribs I’ve ever tasted. And I got to watch Tiger Woods perform magic. It was a great day for me as a father.

    But I wonder how well I am doing honoring my parents. When I was a kid, honoring my father and mother was a pretty simple concept. It meant obeying them, not talking back, doing my chores without attitude, etc. In this stage of life it is a mandate with far more subtlety.

    A few years ago my father passed away, but his only brother, my Uncle, lives 20 minutes away. My Uncle has been widowed twice, has never had children of his own, and these days faces growing health concerns. Once a week I go to his home to help manage his finances, sort medicines, and generally check in on him. His hearing aids work only about half the time making communication comically difficult. But he is a good man with a generous heart. Being there for him feels like the right thing to do and to be honest, I wonder if serving him is a way I can honor my father. I wonder how my kids are affected by my efforts at serving my Uncle.

    I am also wondering a lot these days about how I might do a better job honoring my mother. She is a trouper, but without my father around, taking care of the house and managing the chores of life are becoming more and more complicated for her. However, she lives two hours away, unless traffic is bad. (It took five hours once.) It is just plain hard to get out to her place as often as I would like. My wife, Margaret and I have made a commitment to go out to my Mom’s at least once a month, but something inside me knows that there is more at stake than “just doing the right thing.”

    What’s at stake for me in all this is the challenge of learning how I might truly honor my mother and father in a new way at this complicated stage in life. My growing conviction is that honoring them now is more important than it has ever been.

    I was a clueless child during all those years when caring for me or wiping my butt were inconvenient for my Mom. Perhaps, inconvenience is an irrelevant factor in my considerations about how and when to serve them.