One Plus One

Traveling through memories often takes me back to kindergarten days. At that young age, I already knew some basics. I had learned the alphabet, how to write my name—first, middle, and last—and could figure basic addition facts with the help of my fingers and, occasionally, toes. 1+1=2 provided a logical place to start, and math became my friend as I worked my way through grade school, and beyond.

I learned at the age of thirty how basic math doesn’t always add up. As a single mother of two little girls, I attended a progressive church where the children’s program was strong and the singles group welcomed me warmly. I had isolated myself since becoming single again and was happy to settle amongst others who met me where I was and provided the emotional and spiritual support I so desperately needed.

One Sunday afternoon at a singles picnic, I recognized a man I had seen a few weeks earlier at church. A little girl around the age of three bounced along beside him, eager to take in the playground action with other enthusiastic children. I couldn’t take my eyes off her headful of red curls—or her handsome father! After lunch, I sat with friends and watched the guys playing football a short distance away. It didn’t take long for me to jump into their game and use the skills I learned growing up in a houseful of brothers. I caught more than a football that afternoon; I caught the eye of the man I would marry.

Two years later we stood together (“we” meaning me, my soon-to-be husband, my two daughters, and his little girl) and vowed to become a family. That is when the math facts changed. 1+1 now equaled five. Our life together began with an eight-year-old, two five-year-olds, and very little privacy, meaning we could always count on having three attentive chaperones in tow. They brought immense joy to our lives, but also left little space for us, as newlyweds, to experience the necessary closeness—both physical and relational—to build a strong enough infrastructure for a sound marriage.

Anniversaries swept by as one year faded into the next.

We skittered from gymnastics to voice lessons to softball, and our calendar pages were left with little space between the ink. Recitals, meets, and tournaments consumed our weekends, leaving scarce time for our relationship. Eight years into life together, our girls, now teenagers, were much more independent. With the opportunity for more we-time finally arriving, so did our two-year-old niece. Her presence was like warm sunshine in our home and we delighted in her effervescence. We had added another daughter to our family, bringing the sum total to six.

We once again found ourselves easily drawn to academic projects and after-school activities, leaving us with limited couple time. While we loved each other and enjoyed the treasured moments we discovered, we both knew we wanted more, yet found it just beyond our reach. We continued pouring into our four daughters and loved watching them grow in beauty and wisdom. One at a time, high school diplomas were collected, college applications were accepted, and life took our daughters to build careers and families of their own.

One morning, we were surprised to find ourselves across the kitchen table from each other. There were two sets of keys on the hook by the door, two towels in the laundry basket, and a husband and wife alone together for the first time in thirty-one years. Along with the quiet house, we now both work from home and see each other several times throughout the day. We share lunchtime together and look forward to even more face time once computers are shut down and virtual meetings cease. Each evening we enjoy walking together, and the uninterrupted time to talk and share our hearts openly has ignited something in our relationship we didn’t know existed—intimacy.

We have fallen in love again, only this time our new lives together look different. We talk more, laugh more, touch more, and love more. We truly know each other for the first time since we met; he sees me and I see him. Our overflowing nest has become a nest for two, and we now truly know what it means to be of one heart.

Our marriage is just beginning. 1+1=1.

Wendy Lipham lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast where she has taught interview and communication skills for over twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with young women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, she is further inspired by the growth of her “Beautifully Broken” story group. She enjoys writing, drawing, and needlepoint. Most of all, she loves living life beside her husband and hearing the laughter of their seven grandchildren.