Second Life

Did you see her!? The way she looked when she got out of that carriage? That bright eyed, full mouth smile! She was excited. Excited to see me. To be with… me. What a notion! A notion that even 20 years later I sometimes have a hard time fully believing. She loves me. Because I am. Just because I am. And we’ve learned to love each other’s existence, each other’s presence. And we know we will always learn.

My second life has consisted of 20 years being married to Sarah. In the words of the great Inigo Montoya “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

I suppose there’s no other place to start than our foundation. Our family. The wedding itself was a testimony to that solid footing. Our parents and other family members doing all the things, making cakes, putting up chairs, decorating, taking pictures, eating a slice of our wedding cheesecake early before we even cut it. Rest easy, Glenn! Dont’ spin your wheels on the driveway up there in Glory.

Seriously, it’s the fabric of who we are. Our family. We lived with them, have been fed by them–with literal and spiritual food–they’ve taken care of our kids, taken care with our kids. We have learned from their examples to be gracious and generous and selfless and forgiving. We have learned from them commitment and honesty and loyalty.

And we have worked with them to pass those things along to our own kids. My God, what a blessing in this life are Samuel, Sydney, and Isaac to us! Sarah likes to tell people that we were only married a few weeks and I was already saying I was ready to have the babies. I did learn that it was best to wait at least a few weeks after a baby was born to start talking about the next one. 🙂 Our 3 were so eager to be with us, they all arrived earlier than expected. Thank you to all of you who have impacted them and who have encouraged them. 17 and a half of our 20 years have been filled with those amazing humans. I could type books and books about them, but for those who know us, who know them, you know why. I am so proud of them and we are so blessed by them!

We’ve tried to be advocates for our kids. We’ve tried to teach them to hold loosely to money and things and to place more value on people and experiences. We’ve tried to teach them a strong work ethic, but that their value isn’t found in accomplishments or failures. They know I love them more than anything in the world, but I also remind them, or I used to, that my wife came first. If they ever disrespected her–which didn’t happen more than once or twice in all the years–they better recognize… These days they are the ones that teach me more often than not, I have to say. I am awed by their respect and love for others. All others. I am enlightened by their perspectives of patience and peace.

Sarah and I are both career teachers and pastors. Formally and informally at different stages. Sarah got her M.A. in English Lit while nursing and tending to a new born. She has taught as an adjunct prof at GWU and CCC, edited Doctoral dissertations, taught high school English, taught the best home school of all time (Broad River Academy what what?!) and now currently serves as the director of TRIO at CCC (more on that tomorrow in Third Life).

I will enter year 19 teaching next August. It defines me. Not the test scores, though I do ok with those, but the connections. The recognition of the students. What I mean by that is recognizing that they are, now, and not some commodity to be trained for the future. That their education is one of becoming more fully human as they increase perspective through studying the arts and sciences. Encouraging them through failure and hardship and celebrating with them in success and letting them know that we’re all humans seeking and searching and trying to figure this thing out together. Or something like that…

And we’ve both served as pastors and elders at our church BRCC and I was actually part time youth pastor at Sandy Run when we first started out. Shout out to Tim Hendrick!

…Those fires though! I wonder how many we’ve had. Fires in the backyard with a different cast of characters each and every time. Always the familiars, but with a new addition here and there. For years we had GWU students come to our house on Wednesdays for food and fellowship. Nothing formal, but James didn’t need formal if he was gonna get some of that lasagna. We shared our home with them. Lived our lives in front of them. And they shared back. Still in contact with so many of those folks who sat around the fires or ate in our home or sat on our couches or had tea parties with my daughter or foam sword fights with our boys. Those were good days for sure! BRCC College style with dt and Sarah and the kids. Ha. I’m smiling big as I remember that.

The part I’ve been so hesitant to try and write about, but one that was integral to who Sarah and I are… Well over half of our 20 years was dedicated to the life and community of BRCC. I’m still being shepherded by Matt O. as he leads me through the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Ha. We’re so grateful, so much better as humans because of the way he taught us about Jesus. The long game of discipleship.

The Monday Night guys’ prayer times in the basement, CDH, and moving the service to Dover Theater when the Y waxed the floors once a year, and rolling those dang blue chairs out and in and in and out, and going through myriad approaches to night time meals, because the early days with lunch after was a real thing, and music and not music and sometimes the projector works, and going through, straight through the text and not picking and choosing to suit a personal theme, and coffee and kids running amok because they’re the church of today just as much as any of us, Vacation Bible Party!… and all of it being run by volunteers. All of it. Nobody getting paid. By choice. By design. My God it was a Beautiful thing. Rich and challenging and hilarious and full of life.

But we were human after all. It wasn’t one thing. It was a tidal wave of events and changing scenarios, some benign and some not so much. People moved away. Currents of difference and distrust swelled beyond control. I don’t know. I don’t know. But if I’m going to be honest and write about our Second Life then the disintegration of BRCC as we knew it… well it leveled Sarah and me. Devastated us. We thought we were known, and yet we seemed so unknown. We did all that we could as best as we could. We did what we thought we should. We tried. We defended. Til the end. Til this day. I’m sorry for the relationships that were severed. We poured our lives into the experiment. Sarah poured her life out almost literally. Her mental and physical health were bruised and battered. We spent a lot of time grieving. I suppose, and maybe it’s obvious, we still do. When I talk about the healing and magic of Avett Brothers at Red Rocks it is in reference to this time. So hard. We really have No Hard Feelings as the song goes. It took us time to let go, but we have. Now we have the Church of 6. With satellite campuses in Matthews and Bozeman. For all that happened I am grateful and humble. Even the hard part.

And dang Gardner-Webb! Come on… what the heck? A man gives over half of his life to you and he walks in on a Monday morning to get a termination letter. Y’all know that story, but man.

And Covid. Shew. And the bitter hatred and division that marks so much of our discourse. What a time! Alas…

We are stronger now, Sarah and I, for all of it. Through all of it. Depth. Insight. Flowing together like water, as one.

We’ve lived in Statesville and freaked out about Carbon Monoxide during ice storms, eaten frog legs at my folks’ house, had a preemie in Florence, SC and one with the cord wrapped around her neck, and a third one with no drama but early nonetheless. We’ve travelled all around and loved and lost and loved again. Sarah’s been a saint of patience and grace as she’s learned to deal with my peculiarities and my tendency to be an ass sometimes. Sorry for the language, but really there’s no better way to describe it. We’ve eaten wings and cheesecake and watched tennis and sang really loud and driven with the windows down and watched the trees dance and the clouds form and reform.

We’ve just sat together quietly. Learning just… to be. To be. Two becoming One. The Mystery revealed in flashes. In us. Glimpses of the Good in each other. Despite, or maybe even because of our willingness to accept each other’s and our own flaws and failures.

It’s not a fairytale. It’s messy and difficult sometimes. It’s joyful and hilarious sometimes. Most of the time it’s just regular day to day living and loving and learning. And for all of it. For all 20 years I am Grateful and Humble.

I promise the Third Life entry will be much shorter. If you made it this far, thank you for reading and sorry for rambling. I’m a work in progress. We are. We are. Thank you to all of you who have contributed your love and support and encouragement to us over these years. And thanks for not agreeing too adamantly when I admit to being as ass. I know some of ya’ll nodded your head when I said that. 😉 😂

Grace and peace to you all.

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