Holy Vow!


My fiancé and I are eloping in a few months.

When people ask why we are eloping and not having a ‘real’ wedding, we remind them that an elopement IS a real wedding. Then we explain that we are simply both introverts and don’t like a lot of attention.

But the truth is a bit more complicated.

The truth is… we ARE both introverts and neither of us like attention.

The truth is… we are also not 23 anymore and we don’t want to worry about who is bored. We don’t want to worry about what we look like from behind (mostly that is just me but he gets it.) We don’t want to worry about who is wandering off a cliff while their parents get in some needed adult conversation.

The truth is… we also both had horrific first marriages. We were both betrayed a million times over. We both take promises seriously and will not make one that we can’t keep. Getting married a second time requires an awful lot of vulnerability and neither of us wish to share those tender feelings with the entire world – just with each other.

The truth is… when we exchange our vows, we want to be able to concentrate on what we are saying, what we are hearing. The vows are about us, about our relationship, about the life, the future we want to have. We don’t want to worry about what other people think.

❤ ❤ ❤

My fiance grew up attending a Lutheran Church closer to my house than his own. But… atheist siblings and some really bad experiences had an influence on him and he self-identifies as an Agnostic. That being said, we have frequent religious conversations. He claims we cannot know whether God exists yet, it is pretty clear any beef he has is with those people who call themselves followers of Christ who don’t act very Christ-like. In fact, when you talk with him and really listen, he DOES acknowledge God, His power, authority, omnipotence and love. He actually believes a lot of the same things I do. We are not too far off the mark from each other. The reason he calls himself an Agnostic is because, other than me, his entire experience with Christianity is that of God as a judge. And that unloving, uncaring, judgmental God? He doesn’t believe that one-sided, Magic Eight-ball kind of God exists. And I completely understand that. So.. yes, we have differences but.. we actually have more similarities than differences. He sees this, too and has volunteered to actively participate in a church together when we find one.

As for me, I grew up Lutheran (Missouri Synod) but spent most of my adult years in the Evangelical Covenant Church. Unfortunately, church member responses to my daughter’s coming out and responses / reactions to political issues in a controversial election were not very loving or open for dialogue. It made me extremely uncomfortable sitting next to them and made it impossible to worship my Abba, Father-God.

So much so, I stopped attending services for a while.

Right before the election, a couple of women noticed and sent me emails and messages encouraging me. They thought I was doing the right thing by not attending church right now. After all, they had never been comfortable with the things my ex-husband had done. At the same time, the fact that I was divorced in a church made up of young married couples / families also made them uncomfortable. They told me they believed my son was a good guy even if he did have long hair and listen to heavy metal and… they thought I was awfully brave for still living with and loving my gay daughter. So yes! They were completely in support of me taking some time out of church to process.

Just when I had been thinking I would be able to suck it up and go back soon, I couldn’t even….

The pastor noticed  my absence and invited me out for coffee. Desperate to talk about the issues / feelings I was experiencing, I asked for a date / time / place but he did not respond. This was followed by three more invitations, by three “Please. I would very, very much like that. Let me know what day / time and I will do everything I can to be there” responses and by three more failed follow-ups. Unfortunately, the invitation was only a token and not a genuine offer. He just wanted to be able to say he had done everything he could.  I know because he claimed to have done everything he could in a letter I received the week after I became engaged. This letter informed me that due to my lack of participation in Sunday Services, they were revoking my church membership.

I was destroyed, utterly destroyed.

I couldn’t worship there anymore but… it had been my refuge in some of the most difficult times of my life. I had served here, spent more time here, donated more than what I could afford here because they were my people, my family.

I have not yet found another church.

To be honest, I have not done anything more than a cursory Google search. I visit various church websites and see pseudo-political posts, judgmental sermon topics, links to social media accounts where members gossip about others and … I just can’t.  I still have my Bible. I still have my prayer walks. I still worship my Abba, Father-God. I still have my faith. I have conversations with my fiancé – for whom this underscores his own beliefs. I have conversations with my kids – one of whom faithfully attends two different churches and plays in two different worship bands; one of whom no longer feels welcome or accepted or clean or loved.

I have faith in God right now but… I do not have faith in those who call themselves His people.

I know.

I know! 

No one is perfect. Certainly I am not!

We are all just human reflections yada yada. But….  I just can’t. People can make mistakes. I can deal with that. But.. when they stop listening to each other? When they stop listening to God? I just can’t.

Anyway… this aside was intended to provide the context for our vow search. Back to my originally intended post… ❤ ❤ ❤

We pretty quickly agreed that the content of our vows is pretty important to us. So, we talked about them and looked at samples provided by our officiant.

Given our respective religious backgrounds, she provided us with traditional vows of various faiths: Protestant, Catholic, Methodist, Non-denominational, Baptist etc. Unfortunately, we found them to all be duty-heavy and absolutely joyless, making marriage seem entirely transactional.

We want God to be part of our wedding and part of our marriage but… the true God. Not the judgmental dictator waiting to strike us down at the first misstep. We want Abba, Father-God (Yes, allows consequences to happen and administers punishment when necessary) as personified through His Son Jesus Christ. We want Him to tell us stories to help us see a better way and to offer forgiveness and restoration as we learn how to do this thing called married life all over again. In our opinion, God is a dynamic being and does not fit in the little box we keep trying put Him in and it is THAT God, the TRUE God, we want in attendance.

And our marriage vows?

Well, in our opinion, they are our beginning, the creation of our world together.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1: 1 – 5

That right there, outlined in the very first verses of the book of John. That is what we want for our marriage. We want our marriage to be alive and able to withstand the darkness. That happens through Him and through the Word.

Yes, The Word.

But also, through our words to and our covenant with each other.

We want to promise to do the stuff that makes a marriage healthy. We want to promise to do the stuff that makes a marriage strong. We want to promise to do the stuff that will make us better as individuals and as a couple.

So… we did a Google search.

And much of what we found seemed to be, for lack of a better description, promises of a co-dependent and dysfunctional future, promises that are wishy-washy and not really promises at all or promises to turn each other into gods.

“I promise to be your constant love and support… that I will do anything and everything to be your place of comfort and calm… that I will never give up no matter what because I believe in us.”

“In the past I have taken you for granted. I have put others before you. I have done things I am not proud of and I have often been wrong. But, I have always loved you and stood beside you. I am here today to move forward with a renewed commitment to you, our love and lives together. I pledge that from this day forward you will be my number one priority.”

“I stand in the elegance of your beauty and the love for you that comes through God. Now here in front of witnesses I pledge that love ‘this I promise you.’ … Today, I see before me a young woman who still sparkles with laughter, who still has that magical zest for life and whose beauty captured my heart and soul. … Every time I look at you I surrender to you. I only want to be the man to give you everything that I can. Every day and every night.”

“In the presence of our family and friends, I claim you as my lifemate. I offer  you my life, my allegiance, my heart, my soul, my body. Your life, happiness and welfare will be cherished and placed above my own for all time.”

“When you found me: I was dying, you gave me life. I was aimless, you gave me purpose. I was nobody, you made me somebody. … I am me because of you and I know I can only be whole when you’re with me…. I thank you for all you have given me and for who you have made me.”


Just… Ick.

These happened to all come from MyWeddingVows.Com but this type of vow is everywhere on-line. (No offense is intended if you used something similar in your wedding. They probably meant something different to you than how we are seeing them.)

Is it just us or do you see the trouble with these promises, too?

But… we are still without vows or ideas for vows.

I’m sure we will be doing another Google search but I want to hear what is tried and true.

What do you think makes for a healthy, strong relationship?

What has been the key to your relationship successes?




Yoga for Social Skills

Kelly Leonard The Second City

Yoga for Social Skills.

I did not coin the phrase. It was delivered by Kelly Leonard, Executive Vice President of The Second City. He said it in an interactive keynote speech at a conference I am attending. His bio says he has overseen productions featuring Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Keegan Michael Kay and more. And… as impressed as I was with who he has worked with, I was more impressed by what he had to say.

Over the years I have seen a lot of ‘Improv for Business’ type courses offered by a lot of organizations. Over the years I have always wanted to sign up for one. I mean… who doesn’t want to think faster on their feet and be funny!?

But… to be perfectly honest, I had a hard time justifying it. I had a hard time seeing a connection. Kelly Leonard and his colleague Robyn Scott put it out there.

“Improv is Yoga for social skills.”

“Improv is practice being unpracticed.”

And… they explained the science behind some of it.

Apparently, scientists have scanned the brains of people actively engaged in improv and… when we are improvising, activity is reduced in the part of the brain that regulates self-judgment and self-consciousness.

When our self-critical tendencies are reduced, we listen better. We engage more. We are less fearful of taking risks. We are more creative.

Who doesn’t want to think faster on their feet, be funny AND be a better listener who is more engaged, is more creative and isn’t afraid to take a necessary risk!?

THAT isn’t just for personal growth.

THAT has a business application.

They threw out some improv basics. I had heard them before.

My daughter has a degree in theatre and communication and often brought home improv as dinner games. Seriously. If you see me in a restaurant and eavesdrop on a conversation I am having with my son and daughter, you would likely be very confused. We play a lot of Garth. (Example: If Kelly Leonard was an un-bathed zoo animal, he would be Smelly Leopard. If Robyn Scott was a toilet paper thief, she would still be Robbin’ Scott. etc.)

We have conversations where every sentence has to start with the last word said by the other person. (Example: “I don’t know whether to choose the free-range duck burger or the chicken sandwich.” “Sand, which is used as filler in some foods, is not good to eat.” “Eat vegetables and meat and things that are good for you. Where did you here sand is used as filler?” “Filler article in The Onion. I’m sure it was a joke but it could be true even if it was printed in The Onion.” “Onion on the duck burger sounds lovely!”)

We have conversations where the first word of the first sentence in the conversation must start with the letter A. The second person to add to the conversation must start their sentence with the letter B and so on. (Example: “A Dodge SRT Challenger would be a really fun toy.” “Better than that would be a Dodge SRT Challenger Hellcat! They have 707 HP!” “Camaros look cooler.” “Dodge is a classic.” “Even though the insurance is astronomical, I want one, too!” “For sure!” etc.)

Anyway…. I have heard about and used the concept of “Yes… and” and other improv concepts / exercises. But I have not heard them explained like this and I have not used them as anything other than dinner entertainment.

Kelly Leonard and Robyn Scott explained that the concept of “Yes… and” is not just a way to keep a scene running. It is a way to say yes to a person – even if you ultimately have to say no to an idea.

When someone comes to you with an idea and you say no, you are holding up a giant stop sign. It feels frustrating – and personal – for the person who shared the idea. There is no interconnectivity in this type of exchange, no collaboration. The person with the idea has to do all the work and, after a while of having a stop sign shoved in their face, they are going to stop coming to you with ideas.

When someone comes to you with an idea and you respond with “Yes… but” it is a little passive aggressive. It seems like they are saying yes but then….. they smack you with a stop sign and hit you with a revision. It is frustrating, belittling and confusing.

When someone comes to you with an idea and you say “yes… and” they feel heard. You are acknowledging them and their idea and you are hitting the tennis ball back. You are offering a reflection, another idea, a concern but… you are interacting. You are saying yes to the person and interacting with the idea.

I love this. ❤

I also love the other sound bites – that are so much more than sound bites – that they offered.

“If it can’t be used for evil, it is not really a superpower.”

“Fight like you are right but listen like you are wrong.”

“A Team is NOT only as good as its weakest member. It is only as good as its ability to compensate for its weakest member.”

“We teach others how to treat us but you need to play the scene you are in – NOT the scene you want to be in.”

And of course, the best advice of all….

If you don’t take anything else home with you today, take these three things. 1. Listen 2. Say “Yes… and” and 3. Treat every person in your group as a member of your ensemble.

By the way, I was so impressed, I ordered Kelly Leonard’s book, “Yes… and: Lessons from the Second City.”






Secret Hunch

tunnel-01“Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?”

Had you asked me thirty years ago, 17 year-old me would have blown you off and made something up while secretly believing herself immortal. There were too many things to do and other things to think about then.

Had you asked me twenty years ago, I would have thought my demise would be be related to residual pain stemming from the back / neck problems I received in a couple of closely spaced car accidents. Or, from the bowel obstruction (I have an artery wrapped around my small intestine) I live with. Or, from stomach cancer – like my mom did. Or from a heart broken and destroyed by my (now ex-) husband.

Had you asked me ten years ago, I would have thought it would be from exhaustion. From being used up, completely empty and spent.

Had you asked me five years ago, I would been absolutely convinced I would just waste away, alone, lonely, the nothing of nothingness.


I don’t know that it matters that much.

Like 17 year old me, I choose not to think about it that much. It isn’t that I secretly think myself to be immortal. It’s just that, like 17 year old me, right now I have too much to live for to worry about it. There are too many things to do and too many other things to think about.

Instead, I think about how I will live every day until that happens.

Spending time where it matters.

Being with people I care about most and with people who care about me most.

Learning new things.

Trying new things.

Going new places.

Enjoying old, comfortable places.

Doing things that simply bring me joy.

And… when it does happen?

I hope it will be simply a slipping away, surrounded by the kiddos I so adore, wrapped in arms of my love.

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