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Enjoying the Cold

THAT is a title I never thought I’d scribe. I don’t care for the cold. But I fell in love with a guy from the sub-zero plains of South Dakota, and though he had no desire to return there after college, it seems 21+ years into our marriage, we are here, with the kids, and dog (and Spot the Fish, RIP, 2/11/15)…at least for part of winter. Jason’s traveling quite a bit internationally, but we aren’t joining him on all those adventures just yet.

Last summer God told me we would be here for the winter and as much as I thought He was totally joking, He was quite serious. I have come to a place in my relationship with God to know each day is a gift and following Him, wherever He leads, is always His best plan whether it’s how or where or when or with whom I imagined it or not. As a result, we’ve been blessed to be with his mom on these long, dark, cold days. I’ve been making a lot of soup. Jason’s working hard and helping me with some of my non-profit work. I joined a local gym and am meeting new people. Ryan is enrolled in a local preschool a few days a week and loves his new friends. Emily is flourishing in homeschool and seeing friends she would usually only see in the summer. I’m loving the opportunity to soak in the gift of being with some heart to heart women who have known me and sharpened and prayed for me for 20+ years. I guess God knew what The Graveswolds needed during this season of houselessness.

(Just a side: when Jason and I were dating and I came up for a visit in the winter one year, he literally had to dress me in snow gear to go outside. I stood in the mudroom in my long johns and wool socks and he helped me pull on bibs, zip up a borrowed camo coat, and wrap my neck in a scarf…he pushed each man-sized glove on, then pulled the wrist cinches on each hand so no snow, or wind, could sneak in…tucked my curls into the safety-orange hat, and then I waddled outside to meet his friends for some snowmobiling. Now? Well, now I speak South Dakotan…”It’s in the 20’s, so it’s warm, you don’t even really need a coat…”, “Do you want to go for a walk ON the lake?”, “Do you need anything while I’m in town? (3 miles away)”)

I left Arizona for college in 1990 and never returned. I loved the heat, the sunsets, my family, and the landscape, but wasn’t enamored by the upscale lifestyle or flashy high rolling, holy roller church we had attended, so was okay to leave it. After Jason and I were married for a year and he was done with his Masters, we headed north to Minnesota for him to continue his education in engineering. My father-in-law, Steve (who our son, Noah Steven, was named after) was SOOOO excited we would only be four hours from “home.” Steve had the biggest heart, capable of making EVERYONE feel welcome, cared for, loved…Steve was a friend to anyone and he literally would have given you the shirt off his back if you needed it.

So, in 1995 when we moved to Minneapolis, Steve gave me the perfect “Welcome to the Tundra” gift…he got me these:


He was ahead of his time, that guy, at least when it came to fashion and trends, but he saw a cold girl from Arizona, so, boots from the tundra for the tundra, would only do.

I cringed. I was from Arizona where we wore fashionable sandals and had our toes always painted. These were so clunky…so…so…chunky…so manly, so incredibly WARM.

But Steve knew better, he knew I’d come around. He knew I’d end up loving his state of South Dakota, even in the winter, if I slowed down long enough to take in the beauty. And he was right. I just wish he was here with us to see how far I’ve come, to see how incredible his children are and what wonderful spouses and parents they’ve become, to meet all of his grandkids, to watch Emily ice skate on the frozen golf course pond…to see that my old school boots with the original liners are still keeping my toes warm…and I’ve embraced their clunkiness.

I cringe now knowing how vain I was in my younger years. It’s not that I don’t want to look stylish…I still wash my hair and love me some mascara, but I’ve learned a few things in the last 43 years that matter a bit more, like: to forgive quickly, laugh often, pray hard, breathe deeply, listen to God, do what He says, love well, receive love, sit in the moment, play on the floor, go outside in the cold, kiss often, make eye contact, have a firm handshake, listen with my ears and heart, don’t judge, Scripture is rich, pray for my “enemies,” really, really, really trust God, child-bearing and rearing is hard and beautiful, marriage is hard and beautiful, friendship is hard and beautiful, grief is hard and beautiful, I like multiple cups of tea and love vegetables, I can lift heavy things, I love myself, some bridges already exist, some must be repaired, and others have to be built, there is one size bikini in all of Spain and every size woman wears it proud, being with other women and hearing their stories makes my heart come ALIVE, …and, when it’s cold, it doesn’t matter how cute you look…what matters is warmth.

Show Me Your Moves

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

As we were driving home from Denver this evening, after a fun day where Jason and Em went climbing at REI and Ryan and I watched monster trucks in all their volume do their thing at the Pepsi Center, we were flipping through the channels looking for some good tunes to pass the time.

Em told me to stop it at a certain song. It had a pretty good dance beat. And it’s like it’s automatic, or something…but the ribcage just started going.

I turned to Jason, my ribs all over the place, and said, “Show me your moves, Graves.”

Jason has one move, and well, it looks like this: Stand up straight, bend your arms to a 90 degree angle, elbows at the waist, hands held in loose fists. K. Now, barely move your hips from side to side.

That’s it. That’s what he’s got. Though, if you must know, he did once have a mean moonwalk, but that was before I ever knew him, you know, way back when he and his best friends wore parachute pants.

I said, “Dude, we would have never hooked up if we had met at a club…”

He smiled and said, “I would have learned to dance to get you.”

And that’s the end of the story, folks.

Jason Graves is my lobster.

History in Pictures

Happy 20th Anniversary, Sweetheart!  20 years.  I wrote a “Husband List” before we even met and started dating.  It was 6 pages long.  No pressure, right?!  I think it was the “thing” to do in Christendom way back when, now hidden in a journal somewhere in the basement.   On it were things about integrity, wisdom, a sense of humor, someone who was a good financial steward.  Truth be told, I don’t recall all the things I thought a husband should be, or at least things I wanted in one, but I remember the first item and it read like this:

  1. My husband has to love God more than he loves me.  If this isn’t in order, nothing else will be.

In my immaturity as a 21 year old girl marrying the love of her life, somewhere in my heart I’m sure I thought you would be all those things when we walked down the aisle.

Time and maturity and many moments on our knees before God have shown me how very short the list could have been in the first place.  The rest has been icing on the cake.  After I self-righteously scribed “The Husband” list years ago, the person leading us in the exercise said, “Okay, now, before you can expect those tings from another person, you have to be willing to let God instruct YOU in them, as well.”

It’s safe to say, this has been a journey of learning, the best and hardest lessons of my life, but I can’t imagine not learning to love and live without you by my side. 

For a man of few words, you sure married a wordy girl.  I could just write, “I love you,” but there’s just so much more to it with 20+ years of inside jokes, memories shared, world travels, losing loved ones, having kids, remodeling 2 houses, job losses and gains.  All I know is, you could write a post entitled, “What Every Husband, and Guy Whoever Wants to be One, Needs to Know to Have a Happy and Healthy Marriage.”  Sweetheart, you are an expert in this field, and I think it boils down to you doing these three things very, very, very well:

You love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind…and you love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And by neighbor, that would be me. *wink, wink

Marriages are crumbling and dying all around us.  This isn’t to say we haven’t walked through gray areas, dry zones, and faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles.  We have.

But I love God more than I love you, too, and so it’s worked.  We work.

I told you “I love you” first.
A note your mom gave to me before our wedding.  This is a letter every mom should write to their future child-in-law.
June 26th, 1993
Our first self-portrait as Mr. and Mrs. Jason Graves, ready to set out on the first of many adventures.
10 nights in paradise
Your leg was shaking as you braced yourself over the waterfalls.  Thanks for splurging on our student income…Maui was a fantastic memory!
Remember the storm that morning?  So much has changed since the time this picture was taken.  I was so blessed to know your dad, Sweetheart!  And my heart is full to call your mom a dear friend and to walk and do life with my parents in the day to day.  We are so rich!
Your first Weber at Foxfire, Tulsa, OK
I love that besides Mexico, every country I’ve ever traveled to, it’s been with you!  Here’s a sweet little Siberian fan of yours.
I believe this anniversary consisted of strange tasting pizza in St. Petersburg, followed up with 60 teenagers asking us how our date went…
I know we moved to MN for your PhD, but I just want to thank you for putting up with me and my love of student ministry and mentoring girls.  Those 5 years I worked at NWC were a highlight of my 20’s, even as rough as some of them were.  I can’t believe I got paid to hang out with hundreds of young women year after year!  Thank YOU for being secure in who you are and never being jealous of the time I spent with the girls!   I loved that job and every girl I met there.  My life is richer for knowing each one, and though you were quiet and working on your thesis most of that time, I felt your constant support, so thank you! You seriously are the best!
Here you are on a bro-mance getaway to Alaska…because that is something we both shared openly up front:  friendship and time with our guys or girlfriends is important.  I appreciate so much your healthy, balanced approach to knowing you can’t fill my every need, nor can I fill yours.  I’m so grateful you have had man getaways and I just want to say, “Thank you!” for the times you’ve encouraged me to be with my Bevies!

More bro-mance happening over turkey carcasses…
On top of the world…or at least the Andes.  I always wanted to travel the world…I didn’t figure we’d always have teenagers with us, but hey, leading trips meant they were paid for, hey hey!!!
Thanks for allowing me this one semi-crush.  Bono is too short for me, and married and all, but I never wanted to marry him…you have always been the only man I ever wanted to marry.  Thanks for all the concerts over the years.
Our first house in White Bear Lake.  We sure did make that thing cute!  I remember being in the basement, barely pregnant with Emily, watching airplanes fly into the Twin Towers.  Better memories, however, were living only a few blocks away from Ryan and Shannon, walking over to that burger place or Einstein’s, and playing pranks on our friends.
Ahh, Gramma Pat’s house.  Thank you for your patience with me as the daughter of a builder who saw no reasons why we couldn’t just knock down that wall and that wall and that wall, all while pregnant with our firstborn!  Were we crazy?  All I know, I was large and in charge!  You did a beautiful job on that place, Sweetheart!  Thanks for making 803 Poplar our home!
I always knew you’d be a great dad!  You were pretty in awe of Emily making her sweet entrance into the world!  Thanks for holding my hand, helping me breathe, and pushing my hair out of my face.  It still blows my mind that God would say, the very moment she was born, “I love her more!” 
Our Peanut, Firstborn, Daddy’s Girl. circa 2004

And since you or I had never been a parent before, all I can say is, I’m glad we’ve gotten to “wing it” together!  We haven’t done it all right, but I think she’s turning out alright…and that because you place God first.
I think this was our first official nugget of time away from Em.  Thanks for playing in the Big Apple with me!  We’ve been in some pretty fun places together!  Can’t wait for some more!
Pretty sure this is our 12th anniversary when we first discovered Vesta Dipping Grill.
Perks of you working for a company out of England…Thanks for letting us tag along for a couple of weeks.  Thanks for being sweet and enduring my love of Lady Di and having lunch at that one place plastered with her pictures, too.
Oh man, this was a fun trip!  Remember the little Japanese ladies who came to our hotel room and walked on our backs?  How was that naked business meeting of yours?  Awkward?  #japanesebathhouse #nikkojapan #tallestpeopleinjapanthatweek

Our firstborn son.  Oh man, I was so happy to give you a boy, and selfishly to soak him up myself.  Thanks for being a champ and going along with inviting all my Bevies into the delivery room!  Thanks, too, for choosing Noah’s name.  It was beautiful…he was beautiful!
Mt. Evans hike with your man cub, June or July 2006.
August 2nd, 2006.  God was my Solid Rock, you were my hand to hold and shoulder to lean on.  Your faithfulness was unmatched.

We celebrated his 1st birthday surrounded by friends and rainbows in the sky.  He was the only one not in attendance.

Years later, on this anniversary, I think we had found our smile again…
On this one, I know we did, because the following picture is a result…wakka, wakka

Brave, protective big sister…scared mama, trying to treasure the life of the one growing in me.  Thanks for taking a risk with me, Sweetheart!  Trying this whole “having a kid again” thing was a rollercoaster, but one I’m glad I got on.  Thanks for holding my hair back as I puked my way through the fear.  You’re kind of awesome!

I know you were tired, physically and emotionally.  By this picture, you and I had already celebrated 17 anniversaries!  Honored to welcome into our lives this son named after your friend. 

#deepcontentmentandthankfulness #utterexhaustion #ilovemyguys

20 years, Sweetheart.  20 years.  You are the most generous man I’ve ever known.  You are wise, in fact, those scriptures in Proverbs about wise guys with few words, well, I know God wrote some of those specifically about you. 

This is from our 19th wedding anniversary last year having Spanish tapas in downtown Denver.  This year we’ll be having tapas in Spain.  I can’t wait for more adventures, though I do not take for granted all we’ve already shared.
Jason Aaron Graves, you are my very best friend and I’d say “I do” all over again if you asked me.  But this time I would skip the poofy dress…

I sure love you, Sweetheart!