I Do, Still. STILL.

by Laura on February 12, 2012

In honor of all the hearts floating around these days, I am re-posting a piece I wrote about eight months ago. We were just returning to Asia after a glorious six weeks in the U.S. with family and friends, good bread and better coffee, and I was wrestling with what love looks like, in a marriage, in a work, in a life, over the long-haul–

when new and easy, pretty and exciting begins the slow fade.

 

*************

The greatest wedding I ever attended was of two people that were already married.

Not kidding.

We had some 40-something neighbors a few years back who had gotten married young and fast.  A baby was on the way and so the Catholic wedding was sidestepped by a quick trip to a local judge.

And 12 years and three kids later, they decided to get married.  Again.

And it wasn’t an afterthought wedding, either. It was full-on white dress and big cake and outside tent and stretch limousine.  There was a dj blaring and a photographer snapping and a bartender pouring.

They must have spent a small fortune.

But what I remember the most about that day happened during the ceremony.  The priest stood before this middle-aged couple, and he told the crowd something like this,

“Most people say, ‘I Do,’ before they know exactly what they are getting into.  They can’t really know what marriage will be like, but they have faith and hope that it will turn out in the end. But, today, you get to witness something really special, really unique.  Because Mike and Abbey are saying, ‘I Do, Still.’  They are committing to a marriage with the full knowledge of what marriage is really like.”

And it was incredible to watch them recite their vows about not leaving, when you knew they had lived the gritty battles of arguments before bed and struggles with money and sleepless baby-nights. Mike and Abbey had held jobs and kids’ hands and a home together, and they had walked through 12 years of soccer games and dirty dishes and firsts, and lasts. And here they were, a tuxedo buttoned tight and laugh lines around the eyes and miles traveled on the same trail.

And after more than a decade of real marriage, they were choosing to still say, “I Do.”

***********************

I write this from the front porch of a rental house in Kure Beach, North Carolina.  My heart is full from six weeks of drinking in Community and connecting with family. We’ve been spoiled, honestly, by friends who have treated us and family who have served us and people who have given abundantly. Our kids have jumped on trampolines and surfed waves and played driveway basketball, and we’ve watched a bit of a resurrection take place in the spirit of our son. It’s been fresh air to speak the language and understand the systems and feel known.

But tomorrow, we leave the beach and head to a hotel, where we will board a plane to stay in another hotel, from where we will pack three kids and seven suitcases onto a plane headed for SE Asia in 4 days.  And I would be lying to say that I don’t have mixed emotions about that.

Because when we boarded the plane last time, it was with high ideals and lofty dreams of adventure.  We set off with great expectations and strong calling and the drive for a better Story. We didn’t know what to expect of living in a foreign country with small children, learning a language, integrating into an international community, or fighting human trafficking— but it didn’t matter, because in our best shot at faith and obedience, we boarded that sky-rocket, and left the familiar.

But, now?  Now, we do know.  Fully.  We are Mike and Abbey, planning a wedding ceremony, a decade into marriage already. We know what living in SE Asia has been like for our family, for our kids.  We know the stress that comes from the language barrier, and we understand the chasms of culture we may never really be able to hurdle.  We know the stress from driving, the weight of the sexual darkness, and the spiritual struggles we fight there.  And it is hard.  And gritty.

And far-from glamorous.

And, honestly, there’s a big part of us {the majority, actually} that doesn’t want to ‘walk the aisle’ on Wednesday, that doesn’t want to choose the wedding ceremony, 12 years in. Trust me, if there was an escape hatch, we’d probably take it.

But, there isn’t.

And, so, we are–  getting on that plane.

We are, choosing.  We are, leaving home. We are, jumping again.

And maybe there are all kinds of obediences and followings and stories when it comes to fleshing out this faith, this journey of ours around the sun.  Perhaps in some circumstances the greatest gift of hope you make is leaving it all behind, while in other chapters the sacrifice is in the staying, anyway.

But, I think I am learning {again} that the point is not mostly about the specific action, the set-in-stone formula, the cookie-cutter faith.  I wonder if what He really wants from each of us is

a walk down the aisle

and a heart that says to him,

even several seasons in,

I still do. 

********************

Who, or what, have you been still saying ‘I Do’ to lately? What does loving well look like in your world this week?

*********************

Gorgeous original art above by Amy Lee Weeks from HiddeninHeartScriptureArt.

  • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com kendal

    oh, laura. i pray for you. and kids. and husband. i love your honesty. me? walking in faith on parenting a teen (turned 16 on friday) and a twelve-year-old. both boys. and to raise them in a godly manner takes perseverance and not backing down and sometimes that feels too hard. and throw in living on faith as my husband raises his own support to work missions with wycliffe. i struggle to rest in faith and not WORRY.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Parenting teenage boys. Friend, a place for great faith and perseverance– I can only imagine. And having a salary that depends on other’s giving? Again, a place of rubber-meets-the-road faith.

      Thanks for praying. Will do the same . . .

  • http://benjaminwatson29.blogspot.com Ben

    Laura, I’ve been praying for you guys and have been nervous for your guy’s return cuz I know how tough it can be here. But I’m encouraged by your guys’ strength and courage to keep fighting even when we know full-well the weight of this place.
    God’s gifts are good because of the scenario we receive them; they’re good because HE is good. Even if the gift isn’t to our liking; He is still good, and therefore the gift is as well.
    Living in Thailand is a blessing and a privilege to be the kid helping our Dad fix the house. I know you know that, but I can’t be reminded of that enough.

    Excited to see you guys and can’t wait to play some soccer with Cade and the girls!!

    -Ben

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Ben–

      You are awesome. Thanks for the encouragement. I so appreciate the TRUTH you wrote, man. Really, thank you. I know it’s true– just takes people to remind you sometimes, dontcha think?

      Looking forward to seeing you, too. . .

  • http://www.katielipovsky.com Katie

    We’ve been in Africa almost 4 years–and getting on that plane to go back is always hard for me. Two times ago, I didn’t let my husband unpack our suitcases for days after we got back because I didn’t want to make it “real”. So, you’re definitely not alone.

    But, in retrospect, I’m always thankful that I get on the plane. Sometimes it just takes a few weeks to feel that way :)

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Katie, seriously, I can’t tell you how this statement gave me hope tonight, sitting in a hotel . . .

      “In retrospect, I’m always thankful that I get on the plane. ”

      From someone who has hacked it out for FOUR years (bravo, friend), that means a lot. Thank you.

      No, really, THANK YOU.

  • http://eyesthatknowme.blogspot.com sarah

    this is lovely laura…i love the parallel image. nad i’ll be praying for you all as you return, for supernatural strength and peace, for small detailed blessings for each of your kiddos, for joy in obedience. and i share with you two verses that always help me keep going when i want to just stay…matthew 19:29 & lamentations 3: 22-27, 32-33

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Sarah,

      Thanks for the prayers and for the verses. Actually, Lamentations 3, that whole passage, is one of my all-time favs. I can’t tell you how much these words have meant to me, and it’s neat that you reminding me of them tonight . . .

  • http://www.angiewashington.com @ngie

    Beautiful imagery with the wedding and your decision to continue on with the mission. There’s a phrase that comes to mind as I hear your heart in this post. ‘The honeymoon is over.’

    I would absolutely love to say to you that each year has been more wonderful than the last. Maybe we are going about it ‘wrong’ but it has not been that way for us. Each year has been subsequently a greater challenge, requiring more faith and has caused us to dig deeper than we ever knew we could.

    But what did Paul say? I press… phil. 3 ” 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[d] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

    I love the way The Message sums it up: I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

    {trust me, I am preaching as much to myself as I am to you, friend – God knows I need to hear it – thanks for making me face it this evening – I needed that – thank you.}

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Girl,

      Perfect. Speechless. Just what I needed to hear. . . .

      “I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

      Geez, just, perfect.

      I can’t tell you what it does to a newbie missionary to have someone who has survived it for the long haul say that it gets better, richer with each year. What an unbelievable encouragement, my Bolivian-friend.

      And you can preach at me anytime. :)

  • http://amylsullivan.blogspot.com/ Amy Sullivan

    Laura,

    Thank you for walking the aisle again. Thank you for being brave, for being willing to see the big plans God has laid out for the Parkers.

    Praying for you and your fam, Laura.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      thanks, friend.

      you’re awesome.

      and trust me, i’m not sure if i’m walking or dragging myself down the aisle. haha.

  • http://atotalmonet.blogspot.com Emma Leitch

    Thank you Laura for sharing your heart in this piece. Thank you even more for your obedience to God in following through, even when the path is hard and not glamorous. I honour you for your commitment and willingness to be Jesus in Thailand. May the Lord bless you and your family as travel and as you serve Jesus, through the children in Thailand. I pray He open your eyes to see so much evidence of His saving grace at work through your hearts and hands. I pray you be blown away by evidence of His goodness.
    Much love, Emma

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Emma, Thank you so much for your kind words. Really, I promise, I PROMISE, we are not as great as your comment applauds us for. I’m really humbled and encouraged by your words. Thanks so much.

  • amber

    I have been wondering about you guys and wondering how it would be to get back on that plane…. next month we will have been in Asia a year and I can honestly say it would be really nice to go home for a visit and really hard to come back. but. alas. “I do, still….”. Great parallel, Laura. I need to think on that!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Hang in there Amber. I’ve heard it gets easier. Maybe??! Congrats on hanging in there for a whole year. That’s an important milestone, dontcha think?

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Erin

    Praying for you guys as you walk down that aisle. Even though I have yet experienced the going-back-after-being-back feelings, my heart seems to understand. This is something I think I’ll have to face, and I already feel torn. So…

    Praying with you through this “hard eucharisto” as Ann Voskamp would say. And I give thanks with you for the ability to do what you guys are doing, for the ways Christ will work through you, and for your giving your lives even when you just want to say no.

    Lots of love.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Erin. Thanks for the sense of being in the same boat with me. Thanks for praying and encouraging. The “hard eucharisto”, the hard thanksgiving. I think that describes so much of life, doesn’t it? Oh, that we would have what it takes to GIVE THANKS, anyway. Especially, “anyway.”

  • http://www.sixbrickshigh.com Jamie @ Six Bricks High

    Oh Laura, I’m inspired by your obedience! I can only imagine how tough it is. Sometimes (most of the time really) my heart wants to take the path that seems easier. I’m learning that this path of obedience and surrender isn’t easy, but the shaping and growing it does in my heart is a good thing. A really good thing. Praying for your family!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Jamie, thanks for the encouragement! I can totally relate to wanting the easier path. I guess that’s just very human of us, isn’t it?

      Glad I’m not the only one. :)

      Thanks for the prayers . . .

  • http://www.ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com richelle

    laura,

    i can honestly say i’m not in those shoes…

    i was once, however… the first time we came back, when friends told me they never believed they’d see me here again – and then i actually stepped off the plane. they didn’t believe i’d ever return even though hubs had already been back for 2 months – i had to wait for youngest (at the time) baby’s passport, visa, and first batch of immunizations. hubs even had a house rented and had begun work, and most considered my return less than doubtful.

    i wish i could tell you it gets better… all i can say is “it might.” I would love to promise you that it can’t be any worse… but honestly, there aren’t any guarantees like that.

    so i will simply say something that sounds cliché, something you already know – God’s grace is sufficient – and let me add that i will be praying specifically: that you not just see, hear, taste, smell and feel that sufficiency… but that you totally luxuriate in it, especially during these first several weeks of transition back…

    prayers and blessings for you and yours; thank you for your honesty and the privilege of praying for you~

  • http://www.carriebalvin.blogspot.com Carrie

    Such a beautiful post – I think it might be one of my favorites.

    Lately, as I read about summertime fun I am missing in the States, I need to keep reminding myself of that, I do still.

    I do still – to my husband and living in Guatemala.
    I do still – to God who bought me here.
    I do still – to the unknown future.

  • http://equipekj.blogspot.com/ Kelli

    What an incredible post, Laura. I admire your courage to continue to put one foot in front of the other in obedience, following a believe that saying “yes” to God will always be better than yes to the comforts and ease of America. I love that you paralleled this to faith- rededication looks so much different than an initial sinner’s prayer.. especially when things have been hard. And I love that you can put that into words well. If I was with you when you spoke this, I would raise my hand in a goofy way and nod while my eyebrows spoke how much I agree with you. You are inspiring Laura. I can’t wait for the positive retrospect, and celebrating with you in that.

  • Kelley

    Well spoken, Laura.

    And so you go back. You say “I do.” You and Matt travel the globe back to another home. And I honor your covenant to follow God wherever He takes you.

    Thank you for letting us all see your transparent & honest heart in the process …

    Kelley

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  • Tamara

    GREAT post. Just had our 34th anniversary so can relate to the I. Still. Do. Would I do it again had I known? Not at 20 years old, no. But from this vantage point, ab-so-lute-ly.
    Big difference in the would I still say yes to Jesus question. Man, had I known . . . would have followed him sooner and harder! Because He brings the blessings, not the hardships. Without Him, there would still be difficulties – monumental ones – but no way through, ugh.
    What does He want? The BEST for us: life with Him now and later.
    You and Matt have chosen and been chosen. You know the tough that’s around the corners. Ahhh, but you know the blessings, too. Hugs from here!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      tamara . . . 34 years?! congratulations! a HUGE testimony to a saying YES
      again and
      again and
      again.

  • Fawn

    Awesome post! I happened upon your blog while searching for “homeschooling overseas.” After reading that article, I was hooked on your blog! My husband and I along with our 3 kids having been living in Malaysia for 6 years. It is always nice to connect with someone in similar situation!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com Laura

      Fawn– Happy to meet you, too!

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  • http://www.idelette.com idelette

    This is so poignant, Laura. I love the parallel you’ve drawn between marriage and ministry. To know the cost, and yet to choose it. To lean into it.  

    My “I still do” comes from my global lifestyle, knowing the cost–not only for me or my parents and family (who stayed behind) or my children, who now know the ache of friends and family in faraway places … And yet, I know. This is my calling and the plane I will get on to again. Still. 

    Thank you for sharing your journey. 

  • Amy

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!!  I completely love what I do here, but both times I’ve gone back to America I’ve struggled with the thought of putting myself again through all the pain of loving the poor.  This analogy is so helpful!!  

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com Laura

      Yeah! glad it was insightful . . . hope you are having a great week in uganda, new friend!

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