Because I don’t want to be two trains …

by Kari on June 28, 2013

photo (22)

This picture was taken 10 years ago today. (Um…. Could Jeff be any happier?!)

Neither of us cared much about a fancy wedding, so the flowers were fake, from Joann’s fabric, and the dress was borrowed from a friend. We married at my parents’ house–on a 95-degree day–and were surprised when we got to the cake-cutting part and discovered a three-tier wedding cake. Apparently someone made one for us because we had just planned on Costco sheet cakes. Surprise!

That’s kind of been the story of our life: Surprise!

We drove off into the distance, hootin’ and hollarin’ and thanking God we got to leave alone! We had waited for our wedding day to even kiss each other (Seriously.) All we really wanted was each other, so once the formalities ended we bolted for the honeymoon–17 days in Hawaii (!) thanks to my generous parents.

photo (26)We had a blast. Everywhere we went people kept telling us to stop kissing. We did everything together, wondering why on earth people wanted to have “Girls’ night out” or “Guys night out.” Why would anyone want to be away from their spouse, ever??? We threw ourselves into the busy ministry life, ate ice cream together way too often and played card-games on the kitchen floor late at night, always dreaming big for our life ahead, together.

We were, in every way, ONE.

Shortly after our wedding, we attended a funeral together. I have no idea who died. A friend of a friend of a friend, perhaps? I don’t even remember why we were there. But the guy who died, whoever he was, was a big deal. Maybe in politics or something? I can’t remember. But he was a big deal, and she was a big deal, and a lot of people were there because they were a big deal.

And when it came time for the wife to speak, she talked about how they each had own life. He had his life and she had his, but that it was good, their marriage like that was good. She said,

“We were two trains running on parallel tracks.”

Everyone nodded and smiled, as if in agreement about the beauty of two trains running on parallel tracks.

After the funeral Jeff and I made our way to the car. Once inside, we looked at each other. Jeff’s spoke my thoughts:

“Babe, I don’t want to be two trains running on parallel tracks.”

Those simple words have haunted me ever since. At that point, it was easy to be one. We did everything together, just us, fun crazy stuff, making memories and laughing all the way:

photo (18)We traveled to Israel, swam in the Dead Sea …

photo (29)…and rode camels together, holding on for dear life.

photo (27)And then we really held on for dear life, because after visiting some friends in Boston we …

photo (30)…(SURPRISE!) had a baby!

And everything changed.

photo (19)I remember this night, when Dutch was six months old. It was our first “night out” together, just us, at a wedding at Steve Ballmer’s house in Washington (Thanks, Jeremy & Mari). We had just moved in with my parents, left our jobs, and were finishing seminary. So many things had been stripped away. And that night we danced on the boat dock, laughed ourselves silly, and finally awoke from the fog of 2am feedings and dirty diapers. We adored our son but this was good … and the time together was that much sweeter, because we’d walked through some struggle, together.

photo (32)And at Mom and Dad’s, I’m smiling here but didn’t smile much in those days. Despite my wonderful parents I was so down, so often. Hard, long days with a baby, and no car or phone and Jeff was gone a lot and we with no money and no job and no idea how on earth the future would work out. I smiled here, but so often I cried. But he held me fast and one day came home and said, “I bought you a little something. For $13, I bought” And my darkness found light, and my thoughts found words, and this little blog began and my soul found space to breathe.

photo (33)And then, “Surprise!” Heidi came. And I had wept because what would happen? And we needed an income and health insurance and where would we live? And one by one God provided everything–the job, a temporary home, and–crazy miracle–the “coincidence” of double-coverage for a 2-week period: Right when she was born. And we laughed ourselves silly at His provision and then five days later I cried myself to sleep as the house that we were renting sold and it meant packing up these babies and moving (again!) and where would we go? And we sat that night at Carl’s Jr. (don’t ask me why) and ate french fries and wrote down on a napkin, “We trust God.” And we wrote the date and carried that napkin everywhere, just to remind us. That no matter what: We trust God.

photo (34)And we walked that rocky shore, both kids in tow, and smiled at the future. He’d be in it.

photo (36)And He did come through, again. Those generous Dombrows opened their home, and then the apartment, and then the “dream home.” And we moved in and life was perfect and we were living the dream. And Kimberly Stone took these family photos and it was the one strangely quiet time of our life–like the calm before the storm.

photo (37)Then I wore the cap and gown, then he wore the cap and gown, and we donned our hoods and finally ended the long trudge through seminary–us both tired but glad we did it.


And then, things got crazy again. The Hole In Our Gospel turned our world upside down nothing looked the same and my dream life wasn’t dreamy anymore. But in that wild ride He changed us and gave us unity and strength, and we met up with World Vision and that trip up there, to Seattle–it was for the best thing for us. Reminding us we were one, together, not two trains but ONE.


And we started pursuing a simpler life. We moved to our dumpy rental on Hazelhurst Lane, picked berries and quit keeping up with the Jones’s, whoever they were.


And then this year we took another flying leap of faith, planting RENEW Church, welcoming our housemate, and moving (our 13th time in 10 years!). And it was hard and good and I was writing e-books and working on the real book, and speaking and traveling and life was just so full. And you planned the special trip, just us, to the Church-Planting conference, and when we arrived at the airport at midnight and we’d missed the hotel shuttle so — surprise! — they sent us a limo instead. We sat in the green light in the back of the limo, reminded again we don’t want to be two trains.


But honestly … it’s hard.

We’ve jam-packed a lot into ten years–13 moves, 8 combined years of seminary, 4 different church ministry jobs, church-planting, two kids, blogging, book-writing, speaking, traveling … we sat down just a few days ago, a bit of painful reflection as we realize:

It’s all too easy to be two trains, running on parallel tracks.

Life is so full and we serve and love and answer the phone and meet the needs and run the errands and fix whatever’s broken this time on the house. And if there is one nugget of truth we’ve gleaned from these ten years it’s this:

It’s a lot easier to just be two trains than it is to truly be one.

It’s easier to just be partners. Have a business relationship. Serve each other and raise the kids and get the job done, but marriage isn’t a picture of a business partnership –

It’s a picture of crazy romance and unparalleled love. The love of the Son for His bride, the church.

And so together, today, we’re committing afresh to that love. To turn again to one another. To pursue one another, not just getting stuff done. To laugh more and do a little bit less.

We’re committing to a shorter list of things to do and a longer list of things we’re grateful for.

So, dear reader, thanks for letting me share this–a short history of our 10-year journey of marriage. I am a most imperfect wife loving a most imperfect husband, and we commit afresh today to this thing called marriage–a picture of Jesus’ extravagant love for us.

Perhaps you may commit afresh today too?

And now, would you bless me? Would you share with us the best Marriage Advice you have received? Either from your own experience or that someone has shared with you? We’d LOVE to read your thoughts as we celebrate our anniversary this weekend. THANK YOU SO MUCH for reading! And Happy Anniversary, my Love!



{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Allman June 28, 2013 at 7:29 am

Paul Tillich said “The first duty of love is to listen”.


Paul D. Hunter June 28, 2013 at 8:20 am

I love this post! Love what it says about two of my heroes and how similar it is to my 45 year relationship with my girlfriend.


Anne June 28, 2013 at 8:56 am

My heart is smiling so big right now! Love this post and the beautiful reminder to stay on the SAME track as one. The only advice I have (outside of God being at the center), is to keep laughing! Humor quickly dissolves irritations, anger, stress, “funkiness” and a whole host of other problems. Happy Anniversary! <3


Sharon O June 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

This is such an encouraging post. For new married couples to see the good and the hard, and the coming back together in the end. The best advise I can give as an old married couple (we will celebrate 40 years in November). ALWAYS remember your love is important. Even in the midst of children, and struggles and life’s difficulties and financial issues or health issues, you do not travel that road whatever it is, alone.
Isolation will do great damage to a relationship.
You are united and one.
Your children will respect you and value you when you make that important.
They will understand and feel safe when you say, “mommy and daddy need our time now.”
Wonderful writing, I have followed your blog for about two years now and love it.


Sharon O June 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

This is such an encouraging post. For new married couples to see the good and the hard, and the coming back together in the end. The best advise I can give as an old married couple (we will celebrate 40 years in November). ALWAYS remember your love is important. Even in the midst of children, and struggles and life’s difficulties and financial issues or health issues, you do not travel that road whatever it is, alone.
Isolation will do great damage to a relationship.
You are united and one.
Your children will respect you and value you when you make that important.
They will understand and feel safe when you say, “mommy and daddy need our time now.”
Wonderful writing, I have followed your blog for about two years now and love it.


Dawn June 28, 2013 at 10:34 am

What an encouraging, real-life post about marriage and all it means. We will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary next month and the greatest lesson I have learned over the years is to keep Christ first! If HE is first in EVERY aspect of your life, my how your relationship deepens and grows. If we give ourselves to Him completely, he teaches us how to be one train going on one track. :-)


Stephanie June 28, 2013 at 10:54 am

This brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful, this life God gives each of us. Thanks for sharing your journey. Love you! Happy 10years! This year is 17 for us! We are blessed. :)


Celeste Brock June 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

My spirit has been lifted reading this. I thank Jesus for you. Love, Celeste


April Aguirre June 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Kari and Jeff,
First, Happy Anniversary!!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful testimony of what a Christ centered marriage looks like! Your blog was really inspiring for me for two reasons, the first being that in no other time in history God’s people need to boldly step forward to share what God’s design for marriage is. Just yesterday The Defense Of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional, this means that each State now has a demand to accept gay marriage. Sharing your marriage story is taking a stand against a culture that does what man wants instead of what God wants.
Second, I’ve been a single mom since 2006 and have not dated yet. I’ve been on a journey since then to save myself for the man that God has for me. (I started a purity fan page on FB in 2009!) I’m blessed and not only inspired with your thoughts on marriage but also with the way you waited for each other and how that played out with your wedding plans. What I have learned from my singleness isn’t much different than giving advice on marriage. This is because both circumstances require God as the center and that saving yourself for marriage ties in perfectly for the need to not be two trains on parallel tracks– so the crazy love and romance can blossom into a one flesh union not a partnership. I said once before that Choosing sexual purity is like holding your future spouses heart while you’re waiting to hold their hand. I believe that if we allow God to use our singleness the way He wants, then we’re preparing to have the the kind of marriage you’re talking about.
I love how you all waited to kiss and how all the material aspects of your wedding didn’t mean anything compared to your need to finally become one. I want to have the same kind of wedding and relationship with my future spouse and do all the fun things that you all have done!
God is not only using your example for married couples but also for singles like myself. God bless your precious family and may your marriage always shine for Jesus! April


April June 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Oh Kari, this made me tear up-how beautiful and I loved seeing all of the pictures of you two. The piece of advice I always give is to never rely on your spouse to fulfill all of your emotional needs. I think you do a great job in this area already with your sweet heart for friendship <3 Happy Anniversary as you blaze the trail before us!


Angela Vela June 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I hope you are both richly blessed today on your anniversary of ten years. What a testament your story is to how God provides. A beautiful verse I wanted to share: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion…though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12. Here is a wonderful sermon I thought you might be blessed by too-enjoy!


Bob Weaver June 28, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Your blog is so special in showing the love and marriage that God intended to prepare you for the “marriage supper with the Lamb” It also helps us to understand the love that God has for His Church. God bless you Kari and Jeff.


Lacey June 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm

This was so beautiful to read. Congratulations on your anniversary.

I just asked an older Godly woman last week what her best marriage advise was, and this is what she wrote me:

“My best marriage advice is to always trust God as your first and best
advisor in all things! I find that if I talk with God first about my
marriage, I usually end up seeing how he changes me rather than
changing my husband. Another wonderful piece of advice that was
given to me many years ago by a godly woman was to not have
expectations in regard to how your husband’s relationship with Jesus
will look. Accept that his walk with God is as uniquely his as yours is yours. God sure is a faithful marriage builder!”


Theresa Snowbarger June 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Kari, I love this post! 10 years is a big one. My Jeff and I just celebrated 19 years and it has all gone so fast. I’ve realized our marriage relationship is better when we laugh together. We don’t do that enough. It is so easy to become 2 trains – even when you are doing life together. Thank you for sharing :-)


Alice Swartz June 29, 2013 at 7:52 am

Loved this post. I always write Proverbs 15:1 on the cards that I include with wedding gifts.


Marvin Baker June 30, 2013 at 10:17 pm

You know, we each get what we need when we need it. There are days when it feels as if I’m white-knuckling faith just hanging on to that, and, it is a freakin’ fantastic gift to read of others who have trusted God and thrived. Perseverance seems to me to be the spiritual equivalent of social tolerance and so many believers settle. It is obvious from our few meetings and evidenced by the body of work you have accumulated here that your words are your witness and they are serving others. That is sweet.


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