A Story to Celebrate

Each Sunday, our church has a time to share our ‘celebrations and concerns’. Our community take a leisurely time sharing, listening, agreeing, celebrating. It is one of my favorite things about our church.

This morning, a man moved from his position as usher in the rear to stand behind his wife. He straightened the lapel on his bright, red blazer as he cleared his throat. With his hand on his wife’s shoulder, he shared ‘This week we will be celebrating our 55th anniversary’.

We rejoiced with him as he moved back to his place as usher. And that would be enough to celebrate, right?

What caught in my throat, though, was when the usher that was serving beside him stood up and walked forward to meet him in a huge embrace. It was a hug only people who have been through a lot together – the hug of true friends and comrades.

I think both are worthy of celebrating, and both part of a very good story.

April 1990

I just spent the last half hour reading my journal from my very first international trip. In April 1990, I participated in  Mission of Peace, sponsored by the Northeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, to the Soviet Union. It was my first flight (from Bangor Maine to NYC to Helsinki!), the first reason I needed a passport, my first long trip away from home.

I had spent the previous 8 months raising $3500 to fund the trip. I would spent the year following visiting the many groups around Maine (mostly Methodist Women groups) sharing my experience over 40 times.

Reading my journal was a little disappointing. I was a junior in high school, and even though I like to think better of myself, I really was all about the hormones and drama. On this trip I had my first beer and my first vodka, and liked the way they made me feel. I had a crush on a guy but played the role of ‘little sister’ to him, listening to all this woes. I was incredibly aware of the dynamics in our group of 40 high school kids. I was struggling with my relationship with God – mostly that I wanted to have fun that I knew would not bring my closer to Him in discipleship. I was worried about leaving  my little sister at home. (That’s what I wrote, but I think I probably just missed her.) There were very nice people there, and there were terrible people there. I wasn’t afraid except of black marketeers (whom we could get arrested for associating with). I loved, loved, loved the Moscow Circus and wrote that circuses would never be the same for me. (This is true.)

Communism and the USSR was becoming unglued at this time. At one church service we went to we heard speakers from East and West Germany talking about the reunification process. 

One of the most vivid things I remember about my trip (not in my journal) was how the sky was blue in Moscow. After growing up in the cold war, but also paying attention to humanitarian appeals that featured tones of sepia and overcast skies, I was shocked at how vibrant blue the sky was – just like ours in Maine.

I’m not sure what to do with this journal. I don’t think I want to read it again, or that I want my family reading it. What does one do with journals like this? There must be some kind of parting ceremony?

December 27, 1994

“‘I LOVE YOU!’ he said ‘i love you’ – me, he loves me.”

That’s part of the journal entry found from the night before we left for our first visit to India.

The setting was in Lewiston, Maine, a cold winter evening. Marc’s parents lived across the driveway from his mom’s parents. We had just gone down to visit Gram and Gramp and to say good-bye before our trip to India. I was staying with his family because he and his Dad and I were flying out of Portland to meet the rest of our mission team in NY the next morning. 

I had never expected to fall in love when I met Marc. It wasn’t what I had scheduled for my junior year of college. I was ready to be an RA and to throw myself into my studies. Infatuations and unmet expectations had stolen a lot of my time and energy during the previous few years. This was going to be my year of focus. 

Marc and I had known each other for four months. We were ‘dating’ in the pressure filled culture of a Christian college, with people having all sorts of ‘how you are really supposed to date’ ideas. As we moved along in our relationship we tried to sift through what we thought and believed for ourselves. I think we did pretty well. But let me share that we were well into the conversation about marriage and had not yet shared our first kiss. It was still a thrill, a big deal, when we held hands.

We had been not only conservative in our physical relationship, but in our promises and conversations. Marc was still trying to figure out a call to a season of celibacy, perhaps in a monastic setting. It was pretty clear to me that he was to be my life-companion. We had long, frank conversations about this.

That night, we paused in the driveway on our way back to the main house to look up at the clear star-filled sky. I said something, I have no idea what. All I know is that he said “I love you” and it was one of those orchestral, sky-spinning moments. All of the dreaming of a life together that we had begun to share became even more than a dream, it became a path going somewhere.

I imagine that we hugged, though I don’t remember it. But I do remember scrambling into bed that night with my journal, my hands still shaking.

“‘I LOVE YOU!’ he said ‘i love you’ – me, he loves me.”