Sixteen years ago today I was staring out a window in Texas watching torrential rains flood the garden where I was supposed to be married later in the day.
I learned then, what I’ve learned many times since, that a marriage takes improvisation and the willingness to change course, sometimes at a moment’s notice. We had to let go of the dream of saying our vows in the open air and moved the ceremony into the rotunda of a nearby building. It was still beautiful and we’re still married—the place was less important than the people who filled it.
When I look around my home today I can still see the fingerprints of those people all around me. The gifts they brought or sent to celebrate our wedding have become part of the fabric of our lives.
Earlier this week when some friends came to dinner I served sliced honeydew mixed with cherries in a pasta bowl given to us by my friend Julie. Our family uses her bowls every week, filling them with jambalaya or chicken soup or Thai curry. Several of them are chipped after so many years of use, but I love them because they remind me of adventures with Julie—of wading through aqua alta (high water) in Venice, Italy; of passing Venetians standing at the bar of a flooded café casually sipping their machiattos as if it was the most normal thing in the world to have your morning coffee and croissant in fishing waders with water up to your knees. Those pasta bowls are full of more than penne bathed in marinara; they hold memory.
I open the high kitchen cabinet to grab a roll of paper towels and see the silver punch bowl, a wedding gift from Brett’s grandmother, Lois. She grew up in New Orleans and her gift speaks to the formality of southern hospitality in a day gone by. Seeing that bowl reminds me of her stories of Sunday lunch with the Boesch clan at the shot gun house in the garden district of New Orleans built by Brett’s great grandfather and of his great grandmother’s famed cream cheese donuts.
I pour juice for the kids’ breakfast and notice the Waterford crystal glasses that make our table sparkle on special occasions. They were a gift from Ruth and Alan. Ruth was one of the most gracious hosts I’ve ever known because she had mastered the art of making guests feel comfortable and loved. Watching her entertain in her home outside of London, I learned that the most beautiful flower arrangements are the simplest and that great conversation matters more than complicated dishes (although Ruth was also an exquisite cook).
Every Saturday I pile crepes or pancakes or waffles on a stoneware plate handmade in Africa, a gift from our friends Matt and Laura. They met my husband in Nairobi, Kenya before we were married and have known us since we started dating. They were newlyweds with us when we were living in a crazy cool neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. We went out late and slept in on weekends—you know, those delicious carefree years before we all had babies. Later we moved together to Cyprus, where we had our first children within months of one another.
The Presence of the Giver
These material objects were all gifted, and they are precious to me not just because they are beautiful or useful (although they are both), but because they carry with them the memory and something of the presence of the giver.
I don’t love Matt and Laura because they gave me a stoneware plate; I love the plate because it reminds me of Matt and Laura.
When I look at these things that have been fixtures in our homes for sixteen years, I don’t see material possessions; I see memories. I don’t see price tags; I see presence.
I see the memory of the presence of people in our life and in our home who have shaped who we have become together. They’ve left their mark on our environment, on our character and on our marriage.
Gifts like these are blessings, not burdens. They are treasured because they carry with them the blessing of friends who desire the best for our marriage and our home, praying it will be a place of peace and beauty and welcome to others.
Matter & Spirit
We embrace the material and spiritual dimensions of blessing because we are spiritual beings created to live in a material world—our souls are wrapped in flesh and bone. And we have a God who met us in body and in spirit.
When Jesus asked us to remember his time on the earth, he gave us a physical meal—bread and wine. He tied his memory to matter, to something real that we could feel and smell, taste and touch. On Sunday when I knelt and took the Lord’s Supper, I realized that this memory and this presence, above all others, is what sustains our marriage.
The words we speak to one another in the presence of God have more worth than any material gift ever will.
I look up and see a print that my friends Candy and Wilkes gave us as a wedding gift. It hangs on the wall beside our dinning room table. It’s a painting by calligrapher Leanna Fey of a passage from scripture: “What does the Lord require of you O man, that you do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)
These words have been part of my environment for sixteen years. They’ve worked on me in subtle ways, giving shape to the desire of my heart.
When I learned I was expecting a son six years ago, the only name we ever really considered was Micah because we had this passage in mind. It had come to define something of the character we prayed would be born in our son.
After Micah arrived I prayed these words over him most nights. They became his particular blessing, one I still pray—a blessing that he knows by heart.
A wedding blessing given to us became a blessing for our son. My high hope is that he will pass the blessing along to another.
Meaningful words are a creative force in our lives, a goodness that flows out to others.
The people who gave us these gifts are knit inextricably into the fabric of our lives. This community of people helped us become who we are. They helped make a marriage that has lasted sixteen years. Many of them—like Grandma Lois, Ruth and Candy—are no longer with us, but we still have their memory and their presence and their wedding blessings.
Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Tina Boesch