Category Archives: Love and Marriage

This Wasn’t How I Thought This Life Would Go

Jonathan and I married 22 years ago this month, and like all newly weds we had big plans for our life. Among the certainties we presented to God, were the following:

  1. Jonathan would be a youth pastor forever, because youth ministry wasn’t just a stepping stone to “something bigger and better.”
  2. We would be young parents. Our four children would be born before we hit our 30’s so we could be grandparents in our 40’s.
  3. We were never leaving Canada.
  4. We would never renovate a house, or farm sheep.

In case you’re new here, I’ll remind you that we have, thus far, managed to not farm sheep. We hit our tenth anniversary, still childless, and Jonathan leaving his youth pastorate at the beginning of what would be a five year theological overhaul. One would think I would have learned not to give God absolutes. Still, I continued to be surprised when my plans were not His. Here I sit, approaching 43, expecting my own bonus doodle, instead of the granddoodle of my initial plans, and I find myself thinking “but this wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.”

Almost nothing about the life I have now is the life I pictured then. I “should” be published. I “should” have teenagers in an excellent Christian school on whose PTA I would gladly serve. I “should” . . . does it even matter? The point is, I’m not.

And still, as I look back over 22 years of “shoulds,” I am struck also by the things I never saw coming. Would anyone who knew me even ten years ago have anticipated that I would own three separate rolling pins for three separate baking tasks, and use every one regularly? Would the naive almost 21 year old who walked that aisle have anticipated the day she/I could gut, skin, and process both large game and small animals and birds for our family’s consumption?  Hardly. My political shift from liberal to angry conservative to undefinable was probably not as surprising to others as it was to me. However, I know that no one could have foreseen the day in which I found joy and peace within the bounds called “confessional.”

I didn’t set out to be a confessional Presbyterian, any more than I set out to spend ten years of life infertile, but the journeys are not separate. This isn’t the life I set out to live. This isn’t the road map I unfurled at the dawning of my early adulthood. It doesn’t even look like the same country, some days. Still, I wouldn’t trade it. Some of the greatest beauties of my life and things that stir my soul today couldn’t even be found on that first path. The things in which I delight today are things I didn’t even know I wanted then.

So six months ago it wasn’t my plan to have a baby in my 40s. What joy and delights are to come that I cannot anticipate? This bonus doodle follows in a long line of things I receive from the Lord that I didn’t know I wanted. Some of those things have been terribly painful, and the heavy hand of providence may lay on this too. Even so, all things considered, He has continued to make my boundaries lie in pleasant places. This isn’t the way I thought my life would go, 22 years ago, 10 years ago, 6 months ago. This wasn’t my plan. What a comforting place to rest.


On the Surreality of Being “The Preacher’s Wife.”

Just for the record, I will never look, or dress, or sound like this . . .

So technically Jonathan is not yet a pastor. He is preaching here as stated pulpit supply until he passes his final presbytery exams and can be called and installed as the minister of this congregation. In a direct correlation I am not a pastor’s wife. However, on two occasions in the last month, Jonathan has traded pulpits with other pastors in our presbytery. As we have had the joy of worshiping with other brothers and  sisters in Christ, I have had the strange experience of being introduced as the preacher’s wife.

The title brings with it a sense of inadequacy and not a little bit of anxiety. I found myself standing before a mirror in Nova Scotia psycho-analyzing what my hair would tell the congregation about me. Too elaborate says that I’m vain, too plain says that I’m lazy and I don’t want to look like a grandma, but I certainly don’t want to look like I think I’m still twenty. I put it in a bun, just like I do every Sunday because there is still a rational brain talking back to the crazy. On that same Sunday I employed the phrase “Suck it up, Butter-cup” while telling a story and thought to myself, as I watched the words zoom past me, “Probably not found in the “preacher’s wife accepted glossary.”

But in our travels around our sister congregations, I have had a wonderful realization. I am unlike all of the other pastor’s wives, and they are all unlike each other. There is no type or style or glossary, or wardrobe committee, or list of acceptable hairstyles. The way I am being introduced may have changed, but in reality I have the same job I did in St. Louis, and Columbus when I was just introduced as “Coralie.” I am Jonathan’s helpmeet and the mother of my children. I am married to a preacher. That is just an interesting fact about me, it is not a job description.


Today is my husband’s 40th birthday and he has had very few requests. He wants to eat dinner at church tonight because we haven’t most of the semester and it’s something we really love doing. He wants to have birthday cake with the small group that meets at our house on Thursday evening and he wants to use our AMC gift cards to see some sort of a movie on Saturday.

40 is a milestone, and when I hit 40 next year I intend to mark it in a big way, but for Jonathan there are more important things on his mind, like an ethics paper and a Christ and Salvation paper, and group projects and internship requirements. . . and on and on. Really, a few quiet pleasures are a bigger deal to him right now than a big blowout that would just feel like another obligation.

Unfortunately, last night our mackerdoodle threw up all night, and this morning the cheesedoodle did his best to emulate her – at speech therapy, because throwing up in public is so much better than throwing up in bed. Ick. This rules out dinner plans and really puts a crimp in the over all festive nature of a birthday.

So on his 40th birthday, with papers due and meetings to attend and plans changed or canceled, my husband is snuggled up on the couch, a queasy kid under each arm (and a towel on his lap, just in case) watching The Incredibles. This is one of the many things I love about this man. It doesn’t take much to be content with life when you get to eat your favorite food with your favorite people and then do it all over again in three days. It is the mark of a wonderful husband and father to find joy in a birthday that features someone else’s vomit and canned chicken noodle soup.

Happy Birthday, my love.

The Way to a Woman’s Heart.

For the first twelve years of our marriage, Jonathan and I did almost everything together. Sure we sometimes had separate jobs, and I didn’t usually join him when he went hunting (mostly because I had a bad habit of startling enormous bucks through unexpected and unnecessary use of the Primos Doe Bleat); but for the most part we were together so often that people referred to us as one person named JonathanandCoralie. This also extended into hospitality. We would plan the meal together, often shop together, cook together and clean up the house together. He had his responsibilities and I had mine, but we faced it down together.

All of that began to shift when the mackerdoodle arrived, but it really changed completely when the cheesedoodle was born and I became a full time, stay at homemaker while Jonathan worked 60+ hours at two Chick-fil-As waiting to come to seminary. That was when I learned to love cooking, when I began to discover the joys (and frustrations) of managing a household and when my home became my career instead of a tool for the purpose of shelter and meeting people.

Those habits, once developed (even as poorly as I have) are hard to shake. Three plus years later and I am once again entering the work force, but now, when the task list comes up and Jonathan steps in to help, my response has defaulted to, “Oh. Just let me do that.”  The problem is, I can’t do it all, and I shouldn’t expect myself to do so.

Today I came home from grocery shopping to find my husband mopping my kitchen floor. On his hands and knees just to see if that got things cleaner than my steam mop. If there is anything more appealing than that, I would like to know it; and I feel the need to point out here that he is taken.

I realized today that the Lord gave us a firm foundation of being in life and marriage together; three kids and a brief sojourn through seminary doesn’t make that less true, it makes it more important. This afternoon my husband found out that the way to my heart may just be through a little warm soapy water and elbow grease; and I was reminded of the days, not that long ago – and a lifetime ago – when my husband and I did almost everything together.

Sometimes It’s Not About Personality

I am an extrovert and Jonathan is an introvert. In short form, that means if I get energized from being with people and Jonathan gets energized from being alone. It’s pretty simple. It’s not a right or a wrong, it’s just who we are.  When I’m having a bad day what I REALLY want is to be with people – preferably a lot of people I know.  When Jonathan is having a bad day he wants to lie on the couch and watch TV and pretend the entire world has disappeared. We’ve learned over the years how to deal with the differences in our personalities and now we just laugh about it most of the time.

This weekend Jonathan’s parents graciously gifted us one of their timeshare weeks for later this summer. The second I heard about the gift I began to wonder who we could invite to join us on this little get away. I was thinking sleeping arrangements and cooking arrangements and I started talking to Jonathan about my (many and varied) ideas. He was reticent about the ideas, and in my head I chuckled at my extroversion and his introversion. “He’ll come around.” I thought.

He went to work, the children played, we had our afternoon and then dinner and at some point the mackerdoodle mentioned the hotel Grandma and Grandpa were going to let us visit in August. “For my birthday!” she said. She asked some questions and so did the cheesedoodle (because he can do that now) and as I listened to them prattle as children do I realized that this time it wasn’t about me being an extrovert.

This time it was about me sinning against my family. The children have never been on a family vacation. We have traveled to see family and friends, but we have never been together, as just our family unit, on a vacation. I was making plans to continue that streak when it was unnecessary. This wasn’t about me being energized by people, this was about me acting as if my family wasn’t enough for me. I was about to send the message to my children that we couldn’t have fun unless someone else came along.

Sometimes it’s not right or wrong, it’s just personality. Today wasn’t one of those times.

16 Years of Blessing

It’s our 16th anniversary today. We played it low key. Jonathan’s finished with school until Hebrew starts on June 6th and he had today off work. So we took the kids to the zoo this morning, and this afternoon Jonathan took them (all three of them) down to the swings at the end of the street and I was able to vacuum my floor!  Hallelujah! Happy Anniversary to me! (That’s not sarcasm. I was really delighted!)

Tomorrow some neighbors are going to watch our kids in the afternoon while Jonathan and I go out for lunch using a gift card we were given months ago.  It’s the perfect sort of celebration for a 16th anniversary at seminary with a newborn.

16 years ago Jonathan promised me that we would do something big for our tenth anniversary. (because the kids would be old enough to leave by then. HA!) Instead, Jonathan left his youth ministry position just before our ninth anniversary and we didn’t start teaching until three months after our tenth anniversary. So not exactly in the place to do “big”.  We decided we’d do it on our fifteenth. (Because it wasn’t like we were going to have kids by then, anyway. HA!) Instead, for our fifteenth we came to seminary.

Last week I was telling one of our neighbors (actually, the ones watching our older doodles tomorrow while Jonathan and I go out for lunch) that maybe we’d aim for the 25th. Because it’s not like our kids will be old enough to throw us a big party. He advised me that maybe we should just stop making plans for future anniversaries, as there seems to be major life changes every time we make plans like that. I think he may be right. I think after eleven anniversaries of praying for children, I am enormously content with 50 or so anniversaries of low key family days.

Happy 16th anniversary babe. Thank you Lord for all of the blessings these last 16 years have held.

Things I Love Part Three: My Husband

This is part three in my week long series seeking to honor the things I esteem.

Last Friday I had the privilege of hearing a woman of God speak to a group of us women.  In that talk she made a great point of how excellent her husband is and I was struck that too often when we get together as women we tend to idolize our children and mock our husbands.  This should not be the case, and I was convicted that I do not honor my husband here on the blog nearly enough.

Here is my struggle: how do I publicly acknowledge and esteem a man who hates to be the center of attention?

I think I can say this: the first time I met Jonathan Cowan, I was running, tears in my eyes, away from a silly boy I thought I loved who had broken my heart. I literally ran into Jonathan’s arms, and I’ve been running into his arms ever since.  We’ve had our moments. I mean, put two sinful people in a marriage and there’s bound to be conflict.  When both of those people have artistic temperaments it takes things up a notch.  While we may have fought over how to cut a round cake (yes really), or the state of the house, or other trivial matters, when the storms came we’ve clung to each other, and he’s led me in clinging to the Lord.

In all the years of infertility and every month that we felt that loss of omission, he still loved me.  He never once told me that I was broken.  He never reminded me that if he had married someone else he could have had a full quiver before then.  He opened his arms, and let me run into them.

I will never forget, even when I am old and gray and can’t remember how to cook soup, I will never forget lying on my bed in our little apartment in Georgia sobbing over the loss of our first child after so many years of prayer.  Jonathan curled up behind me, and held me and read me Job 1, which ends:

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Then he went into our spare room/study/art room for several hours, and wrestled with God, and came out with this:

I still get choked up when I look at it.

There is so much I could write about my Jonathan, but anything more would make him uncomfortable.  If I said he was a great man of God, he would say he was a horrible sinner, who faces his sin every day.  If I said he was a caring and loving father, he would say he was too often impatient, or selfish.  So I won’t say those things (*wink*) I’ll just say that I love him more every day, and the longer we’re married, the more I see the gospel at work transforming him.  I need to say it more often.