Into a Commonwealth of Joy

The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown.
~Wendell Berry from “Poetry and Marriage” in Standing By Words

Our vows to one another forty years ago today:

Before God and this gathering, I vow from my heart and spirit that I will be your wife/husband for as long as we both shall live.

I will love you with faithfulness, knowing its importance in sustaining us through good times and bad.

I will love you with respect, serving your greatest good and supporting your continued growth.

I will love you with compassion, knowing the strength and power of forgiveness.

I will love you with hope, remembering our shared belief in the grace of God and His guidance of our marriage.

“And at home, by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be–and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

(our wedding vows for our September 19, 1981 wedding at First Seattle Christian Reformed Church — the last line adapted from Thomas Hardy’s  “Far From the Madding Crowd”)

Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.

We enter, willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.
~Wendell Berry from “A Country of Marriage”

…Marriage… joins two living souls as closely as, in this world, they can be joined. This joining of two who know, love, and trust one another brings them in the same breath into the freedom of sexual consent and into the fullest earthly realization of the image of God.  From their joining, other living souls come into being, and with them great responsibilities that are unending, fearful, and joyful. The marriage of two lovers joins them to one another, to forebears, to descendants, to the community, to heaven and earth. It is the fundamental connection without which nothing holds, and trust is its necessity.
~Wendell Berry from Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community

We married in our Seattle church with our pastor officiating, with a small group of family and friends as witnesses.

It was a wedding created by two frugal people with little to spend – I sewed my dress and Dan’s shirt from muslin, we grew our own flowers, our families helped potluck the lunch afterward and our tiered carrot cake was made by a friend.

Yet our vows to one another were not frugal and held nothing back.
They were extravagant and comprehensive, coming from our hearts and spirits. The music we asked our amazing organist to play (versions below) inspired us by its simplicity and complexity – very much like the families that raised us and the God we worship.

Our vows have taken us from the city to the countryside, to the raising and rejoicing in three amazing children (each of whom wrote movingly to us today) and now four grandchildren. We served more than forty years as a public-employed attorney and physician, have laid down those responsibilities, and picked up the tools of farm and garden along with church and community service for as long as we are able.

We treasure each day of living together in faithfulness, respect, compassion and hope – knowing that how we love and find joy in one another mirrors how God loves and revels in His people.

We are praying for many more days to fill us with what endures.

A pot of red lentils
simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.
~Peter Pereira from “A Pot of Red Lentils”

Here are versions of the organ music we selected for prelude, processional, recessional and postlude

15 thoughts on “Into a Commonwealth of Joy

  1. I love the pictures and your words and others’ words on marriage. So very true. Marriage is not always easy but God’s uniting Presence makes it easier. I am sitting by my Beloved of 58 years on this Lord’s Day. He is my rock. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Always enjoy and think about your words but today’s were really special- if more marriages and families had your same philosophy about life, marriage, our planet and our place on it most things would be so much better – so keep writing and sharing it can only help! Congratulations on your anniversary- loved the photos too! Your dress was beautiful.

    Pat Hanson


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this! Thank you for sharing this with the world. You are such a blessing and inspiration! Wishing you and your husband and family many more years of loving and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning,

    Congratulations on your 40th wedding anniversary! I remember this lovely day well. May God bless you with many more years of loving and serving together!



  5. How wonderful of you to take the time to share all this beauty and joy and music from your wedding day with all of us! A rich blessing, and an uplifting way to spend some precious moments this day! I was sure that your dress was lovingly hand-sewn, and probably by you, so I smiled to have that confirmed! : ) I’ve always wondered, though, in seeing your wedding pictures, whether you also did the embroidery? We have young friends who also wore handmade muslin wedding garments sewed with love by the bride. I wish so much that I’d done the same–so lovely and memorable–and meaningful! I’ve been so blessed by “going to your wedding” today! Thank you for the invitation! God bless you both, richly!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Emily and Dan for living your commitment within the community that you have helped create.
    Love continuing its unfolding for you both,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. what a lovely picture/story today about your wedding!! we are five years ahead of you, but the world wasn’t much different. i also made my dress! may the God of our universe continue to reign in your hearts and lives, and give you many more years together!! anniversary blessings to you both!!

    Liked by 1 person

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