Staying Power

It is intimacy that gives us the grace and strength we need
to push through suffering, pain, and inconvenience. –Heidi Baker

Memories of the morning’s temper tantrums flashed across my mind as I stared out over the small runway into the azure ocean. I was wearing a new skirt, salmon in color and as elegant as the Caribbean breeze, and also new jewelry, “gold” and much bolder than what normally graces my neck and wrist, which is nothing. Hopefully my heart can soak up some of the sparkle of this necklace.

My husband and I were waiting to board the nineteen-passenger De Havilland Twin Otter plane that would take us from our responsibilities on Saba, temporarily helmed by my in-laws, to our second honeymoon on St. Martin. I could not wait. This time alone with my husband was long overdue—so overdue that I wondered if four days would be enough to rekindle all that had been buried deep under the layers of duty.

I tried to smile as my husband pulled his arm around me tighter, whispering that the kids would be fine and we would have the trip of a lifetime.

Maybe, I thought.

We embarked like 1930s movie stars, and I began to cry as I beheld the stunning beauty of Saba disappearing into the clouds. I was so relieved to have a break. I was embarrassed by my emptiness, but I had no other feelings to offer. What a crazy life those rocks have held! While I do love Saba, a potentially bigger part of me never wanted to return. I was losing vision and stamina, particularly in my marriage, and this was before weathering two category five hurricanes.

If we aren’t on the same page, then what is our life together?

It’s not like our love had been lost, our identity as mutual lovers had been lost. Our common bond was fracturing in the separateness of our days; me tending the children, writing, and trying to make friends, and he attending medical school and studying all evening. You can only go so far in the ten minutes between “done with studying” and parental comatose. In our current season of life, it would be very easy to give up on “us.” Although our existence here is simple, our day to day problems are heavy, and would seemingly be lighter were we no longer here. Intimacy comes easy when the burdens are light. We’ve felt desperate to learn how to override the system, knowing the system will not be changing for quite some time.

We landed, secured our car rental, and headed to Grand Case for lunch at a Lolo, a restaurant serving up local dishes like macaroni and peas, red beans and rice. It took twenty-four hours to sort through the residual conflicts as we drove around the island, exploring and getting lost.

The ways we communicated before having little ones had to be relearned. We had forgotten how the other idles, and how to have fun wasting time together, a luxury we rarely have now. We made it to our hotel, which exceeded our expectations in every detail. Dinner reservations and hot pink Vince Camuto heels waited for me at 7pm. Responsibilities were officially gone, and bliss was on the menu tonight.

Over the next few days of sleeping in late, sumptuous breakfasts, dinners, sightseeing, and sunbathing, I could finally feel my mind unwinding, lungs expanding more slowly, laughter no longer forced. We frequently commented to each other “Remember when it was just us? When we had all the time in the world to relax into our romance and be silly and adventurous?” Our unspoken mantra for the trip became What would clandestine lovers do? And then we did exactly that.

St. Martin gently wooed us back to each other and showed us how strong we are as one. We remembered that what we have been building has not been lost, and our goals as a family are still worth the sacrifices being made.

We returned home ready to fight for our unity, rather than look for a way out.

The eternal glory of marriage happens in the seconds you choose to stay: to stay grateful, stay connected, stay hopeful, stay passionate about yourself and the other, stay adventurous, stay aware of the abundance already in your hands, stay all in, stay hungry for God’s presence, stay dreaming, stay clinging to the life of I Am’s spirit, stay silly, stay believing, stay brave, stay singing, stay risking, stay falling and rising back up again. Living water is found right there in the hand-holding across impossible chasms.

*In the catastrophic wake of hurricane Irma, my heart is unspeakably sad, for our trip to St. Martin was just one week before she wreaked havoc on our precious islands. Further damage was dished out by hurricane Maria last week. If you have ever spent time in the Caribbean, or love someone who lives there, please continue to pray for the long process of recovery ahead and consider donating to relief efforts here.   

Kelsi Folsom holds a B.M. in Voice Performance and has traveled all over the world participating in operas, musicals, jazz bands, and choirs. Now a mom to “three under three”, she currently resides in Saba, Dutch Caribbean while her husband attends medical school. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her perfecting gluten-free recipes, snorkeling, *gasp* reading, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. Kelsi writes here, and is also a regular contributor to the island website Women Who Live On Rocks.