Absence Makes the Heart Grow: A Marriage Letter


Seth, here. Amber has hitched a plane to the Holy Land, and while she’s gone, I’ve sneaked in herr to leave her a little marriage letter. Would you consider joining us in writing marriage letters this month? 



We left early Saturday morning to beat the ice and snow to the Tulsa airport. I dropped you off a full day early there at the airport hotel, extending your already eight-day trip to the other side of the world. By now, you are somewhere between here and Jerusalem, and I’m high-centered in the ice-covered Ozarks with four cooped-up boys. And you are well-acquainted with this truth—being cooped-up with four Ozark boys is nothing short of chaotic.

Yesterday, Jude made paper shreds at the table while Titus emptied every Lego from the Hobbit universe onto the floor. Ian found several boxes of Hot Wheels (where did those come from?) and raced them around the house while Isaac played “Fur Elise” twenty times in the living room. I worked in the kitchen, choosing to ignore the boys’ systematic destruction of a once semi-clean house. They were quiet—save and except for Isaac’s butchered rendition of Beethoven—and there were no indications that they were maiming each other, so I didn’t think twice. I put up the last dish, walked from the kitchen to the dining room. My mind swam in a sea of anxiety as I discovered an origami wasteland, enough Hot Wheels to cause a Manhattan traffic jam, and all of Lego Middle Earth exploded across the floor. In the background, Isaac played the soundtrack—ba da ba da ba du da na nuh—over and over again, ad infinitum. 

In a less dulcet tone, I carped “BOYS!” and the four filed into the room. I spread my arms wide, eyes incredulous, and said (with great deliberation), “I… am… not… your… maid.” And in that moment of channeling the great mommy cliché, I came face to face with this frightening proposition—you’d been gone less than twenty-four hours, and I’d already lost my ever-loving mind.

We stood there for a moment, each staring each other down. That’s when I broke. It started as a little chuckle at first, and then roiled into a full-blown laugh. How could I expect boys to be anything less than boys? No one was bleeding. No one had been cut. We weren’t on the way to the emergency room to fish an eraser out of a little-boy nostril. And so, I took a deep breath, gave them my best semi-stern look and said, “let’s clean up together. I’ll help.”

The truth is, when you’re away I teeter in the liminal space between sanity and insanity. Things break (we’ve already sacrificed one closet door to the cause, by the way); dirty clothes pile up; and only one room is ever clean at a time. I’m out of my element without you, my teammate. We do well together. The critical word in that last sentence is together.

But the other truth is, your times away are worth all the crazy, cooped-up, rambunctious mess. When you’re away, when you’re chasing your creative wild-hairs or pushing into a new culture, you spark alive. You love experiential learning more than just about anyone I know, and I’m sure you’ll return full of sensorific stories. You’ll be a new woman, one who knows what it means to be filled to overflowing. I like that about you.

When you’re away, I wind the evenings down praying for the return of the woman filled with life. I pray that you’ll see what needs to be seen, that you’ll experience what needs to be experienced. I pray that you’ll gather stories. I pray that you’ll gather a people to your heart, too. I pray that you’ll gather, and gather, and gather, and that you’ll return and spill your love for every tribe, tongue, and nation into our family.

Yes, when you’re away, I hang on by a gossamer thread. I suspect it’s the same for you when I’m on the road. But if there’s one thing fifteen years of marriage has taught me, it’s that we both need these spacious times. The traveler needs the new spark; the homebound needs the insanity that pushes one toward deeper, more fervent, more fastidious prayer. Two days in, I’m already more fervent.

Rich Mullins sang, “the other side of the world is not so far away.” That may be true, but when you’re there, I feel every mile of it. I’m already missing you.

Insanely and fastidiously praying,




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About me


What Belongs to You: A Marriage Letter
May 04, 2015
Marriage Letters: On New Seasons
April 06, 2015
Marriage Letters: What You Call Holy
February 02, 2015
On Healing and Wholeness: a Resolution and a Marriage Letter
January 26, 2015
A Fifteen Year Anniversary: a story of my body
November 13, 2014
Marriage Letters: How We Co-labor
May 05, 2014
Marriage Letters: Once Upon a Time
February 03, 2014
How and Where to Undo the Chains
October 18, 2012
Marriage Letters: On Outside Influences
April 29, 2012


Christine Duncan
Reply March 2, 2015

This is very cool... and you are all very brave to be without the glue that holds it all together, lol. I only just discovered Amber's site yesterday by sheer fluke but this is fabulous, and I hope more spouses and writers link up!
Might take a stab at it myself!

Reply March 3, 2015

What a heartfelt letter! I pray that all the "boys" get to be boys while Amber is away and grow together as family and with God. My husband is having surgery on his right knee on Mar 12 and will be away from home for almost a month between hospital and physical therapy. I may write my letter to him while he is away from me, our 1st time being apart more than required by a job

Diana Trautwein
Reply March 3, 2015

Beautifully said, Seth. It is a very good thing to learn this truth at the 15 year mark -- many of us take a while longer. Yes, we do need time away, time to pursue who we are as individuals, and then to bring back all we learn and experience to enliven the partnership, the community life we call family. Thanks for this, friend. And blessings on you as you do the work of two parents just now.

Jody Collins
Reply March 3, 2015

Hello Seth--I clicked on over via the link Esther Emery had posted. This made me smile...My son and his wife have FIVE children and this sounds like an experience in their world--whether both parents are home or not.

I like the idea of Marriage Letters--how long is the link open?

I'll be back.

Ashley Hales
Reply March 5, 2015

Love, love, love this. It's so easy as the usual at-home parent while the other spouse travels to just feel the gossamer thread and not the fervent prayers, so easy to just implode trying to do it myself. But it does push you to the edge -- the question is where will you go? Thanks Seth (and I can't wait to read what Amber says about the Holy Land).

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