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Challenge: Keeping Love Alive

Keeping One Another Warm

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I had a meeting tonight and returned home to find both of our cats on one heated bed. Spring betrays us and it's snowing here again. Our cats only met when Mary, our newest cat, showed up about two months ago. Mary wandered here on a night much like tonight — cold, blustery, and snowy. My husband was outside shoveling snow when he saw her and she quickly joined our family. Our resident cat, Tiger Lily, wasn't so sure of her. Lily hissed at Mary to our surprise and then ran away. Then, they absolutely avoided one another. Slowly, though, there were moments of quiet acceptance. I'd see them come close to one other as my son pet them both. Then, I saw them rub noses and my daughter yelled, "Mommy, the cats love one another!" Because they're together, I guess they've just decided to be friends. And now, as it seems, they've become the best of friends. Despite the fact that they both have warm and soft (and heated!) beds in our garage, they now sleep together on one. They were just curled up together, nestled in to weather yet another storm.

For some reason, it made me think of grace and loyalty, friendship and marriage. I saw our cats, curled up together on a bed in the middle of the storm, as a meaningful message. My own marriage has been on my mind a lot lately — the ins and outs of it. I guess because we're coming up on 15 years of marriage? Or maybe it's because changes are in the air? Either way, the interworking of a relationship that has spanned three decades (I met him almost 32 years ago) is not a cut and dry type of thing. I have watched him change from a boy to a teenager. From a teenager to a young adult. From a young adult to a man. From a young man to a seasoned father. I've watched as his hair turned from blonde to a light brown. Light brown to a medium brown. Medium brown to flecks of gray. And now, flecks of gray have made way for a white patch in the front. With all the years, I've seen him change. And I've changed, too.

Like the cats, we have gone through seasons of avoidance and silence. We've hissed in our own ways over the years, voices trying to outdo one another. But, ultimately, like our cats, we've weathered the storms that life has thrown our way. And while we've lived a relatively blessed life together, it hasn't been without struggle. But no matter what happened with us or to us, we have found our way back to the same bed, our bodies keeping one another warm on a snowy night.

I've received so many emails, messages, and even a few requests for interviews about my TODAY Parenting Team piece on marriage. I'm here to tell you that I hardly have marriage figured out. I'm no expert, believe me. I keep quiet about coats and shoes, but that's it! I'm not docile by nature and while I do try to be mindful of the idea that we're all not perfect, sometimes, even my own dialogue doesn't help me refrain from negative behaviors or the pointing out of his imperfections. I don't have advice for people. I never meant to pretend that I did or do or should or would or could. I only tell you here about my own life and what works (and what doesn't!). My marriage is a blessing to me but like life, it isn't perfect.

RELATED: The secret to a long marriage is ... staying quiet?

I don't pretend to know what makes a marriage last. The first lines of my last essay for the TODAY show stated just that. But here's what I know: like our cats, we keep one another warm in a storm. When the storms rage outside of us, we return quickly to one another. And if you're in a season of marriage or life that is hard, may that help you. Keeping one another warm is something. It's a good place to start again or start anew or even break it all down and start over. He's the cat I would curl up with. And that's enough. The rest might just be details?

Thanks for Mothering the Divide with me. My prayer tonight is this: may I remember my own words always. And may they help someone who feels lost in a storm tonight.

Stay warm, my friends. Stay warm in all the ways.

(This is the original post on marriage for the TODAY Parenting Team's Keeping Love Alive challenge).

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