Carried by Prayer, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Carried by Prayer


July 27, 2010

by Stacey Noem

Two weeks ago on Josh’s birthday we learned that his grandfather had died.  On his birthday.  In Iowa. 

Joshua is the first grandchild on this side of the family and we are all very close.  There was no way he couldn’t be there.  I was hoping that I would get to join him as well.  Then – we saw the airline prices.  Absolutely undo-able for even one of us.  So, we found ourselves, late at night still on Josh’s birthday, sitting by a campfire in the side yard just staring.  Neither of us knew what to say.  We really couldn’t figure out what to do. 

We agreed: He couldn’t fly.  He couldn’t miss it.  He couldn’t take the car.  We only have one and there is only one of him.

Then we realized: what we lack in money we can make up for in time.  Thanks to our wonderfully supportive and flexible work environment we do have time to play with. So before we knew it we decided to throw all three children in the car and drive from Portland, Oregon to Iowa. 

OK, for the record: we don’t take road trips.  The longest we have driven with all three of our children is 6 hours to the Redwoods.  The Redwoods were spectacular but barely worth what we had to go through to get there.  And we have not even attempted something comparable since.  So looking down the barrel of 1600 miles (according to Mapquest) and around 24 hours of driving (one way) I was far less than optimistic.  But as soon as we had made the decision, we just seemed to know it was the right one and we jumped up from the fire and threw ourselves whole hog into packing and prepping the car (which was 1000 miles overdue for an oil change and in desperate need of two new tires).

Part of my job was clearing our work calendar.  To give you an idea of just how freaked out I was about the trip with the children this is an excerpt of what I wrote to our staff:

“So, with faith that God will provide we are undertaking the psychotic step of driving with the whole family to Iowa starting tomorrow morning. 

“Psychotic” is obviously an exaggeration, but I am completely uncertain and “un-confident” in our children’s ability to handle this amount of car travel.”

My boss wrote back one line that began: “Psychotic actually seems just about right” and ended with his blessings and promises of prayer. Most of our friends, family and colleagues wrote with their promises of prayer for the larger family and prayer for our journey. 

Turns out it is 1800 miles (200 more than we thought).  And the children…

…were a dream.  They were great.  They stayed occupied with the activities I brought for them. They were patient.  They did as they were told.  They napped.  They joined us in the rosary and they looked at the whole thing as an adventure.  And the car…

…not a problem in the world.  Smooth sailing 1800 miles there and 1800 miles back.  We are now due for another oil change which I am sure we won’t put off.

I don’t know if I have ever so fully felt like I was floating on the wings of prayer like I did for that 9 day trip.  Travel was almost completely ideal.  Not easy, but no problems or hitches with the car or roads, or food, or lodging, or family.  We would get calls or texts from folks checking in and letting us know they were praying for us.  When we arrived folks were so kind saying what a hard long journey it must have been.  But the truth of it is, I feel like the entire time we were in a state of grace, carried by their prayer.  It was amazing.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Sometimes those last minute trips are the best and most rewarding.

    Of course the reason for your trip was not a great reason, but the Lord does work in wondrous ways and He may have put you on the this trip for a very good reason. Enjoy the trip and God Bless!

    Jason

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Sweet Nothings

Sweet Nothings

This past August marked 20 years since Stacey walked into my life.

We were college freshmen, and she argued for an adjustment to her schedule that placed her in the same first-year seminar that I was in. The moment she walked in the door, I knew I wanted to get to know her more.

Her natural beauty struck me first—she wore no makeup and did not wear flashy clothes. I also noticed her manners—in negotiating the schedule adjustment with our professor, she was polite and clear and humble.

So, when the anniversary of this date rolled around last August, I wanted to celebrate it as the watershed moment it was in my life. God’s providence was at work in the first week of classes of the fall of 1994 because our meeting changed my life in an utterly unanticipated, transformative way. I wanted to renew my appreciation for that mystery, and I wanted to share with Stacey something of the grace-filled surprise she has been to me, so I committed myself to writing her 20 poems. That would be one poem for each year our lives have touched, and I told her she’d receive them all by our anniversary date (which is this week, May 9).

I’m pleased to report that I’ve been able to keep my promise—I have 20 poems written and shared. They took every form—limericks, free-form, sonnets, ballads, rhyming and non-rhyming alike. There are more than a few haiku, my favorite form to write and the most convenient for their brevity.

After composing each poem, I found some way to surprise her with it—dropping it in her work items, or under a pillow, or in a shoe. I wanted her to come upon them in unexpected ways.

I had to stretch a bit to find new subject matters, but I was glad for the challenge because it gave me a chance to draw upon important memories and impressions from the past two decades to share. Some made her laugh, some made her blush. All made her smile.

I had been feeling a little humdrum in our relationship—after 20 years, the routines and rhythms of interaction are very familiar and predictable, which is a great comfort in many ways, but also can lead to monotony. I found myself “settling” for less in some ways—not always giving 100%, or falling a little too easily into selfishness. I thought this would be a good way to shake things up—to keep things fresh. It was a discipline that had me reflecting on our relationship and offering affirmation to Stacey in a regular way (to stay on pace, I had to write a poem every other week).

And this poetry project has accomplished that end. One pillar of virtue ethics is the notion that virtue is not inherited or learned, it is acquired through practice. That is to say that if we want to be brave, we must act bravely in large and small ways until we become a person who is brave in all situations. I found that reflecting on our relationship in this creative way has grown my capacity for loving Stacey, and appreciating the gift she is for me.

Theology defines a mystery as something that we cannot come to the end of understanding. In other words, it is not that we know nothing of a mystery—it is that we can’t come to the end of knowing a mystery. The 7,400 days that we’ve known each other have not worn off the sense of wonder that struck me when I first saw Stacey—they have only deepened it.


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