I couldn’t help but giggle when the message from my husband appeared on my phone.
‘You are hereby cordially invited to an evening stroll at the beach
Friday 2nd September 7pm.
Fish and chips will be served as part of the festivities.
Please RSVP to this address within 24 hours.
Cordially invited for fish and chips? Ha! And the signature, ‘LM’? That was a code name from our early days as a couple—a reminder of a time when our relationship was fresh and new. This invitation breathed fun, escape and romance. But would I accept?
For five months Mark and I had been studying, planning and writing in preparation for some new ‘God-ventures’. We spent many evenings and most Saturdays on our computers, often in the same room, yet so engrossed in our individual tasks, we rarely talked. When we did chat, it was usually about our projects or some other family issue we needed to address. We both relished the growth and momentum in this new season and were grateful for what God was doing. But after five months at the same hectic pace, the intensity was taking its toll.
What we really needed was some light-hearted fun. But breaking out of task mode didn’t come easily. When Mark’s invitation came, my happy thoughts quickly gave way to reasoning. I don’t really want fish and chips. I’d rather eat something else. Maybe we can get Thai—but that’s not so easy to eat at the beach. By Friday, I’ll probably be too tired to go out and it’ll be dark and cold at the beach. Maybe we can just do something at home like we usually do. . .
My thoughts spiralled downwards until I felt a stern inner rebuke. Stop! Just stop!
What was I doing? When did I get so fussy? My husband was asking me out on a date! A cute, simple date like we enjoyed in our early days, when we were besotted bible college students living on a tight budget. Back in the days when he was LM—‘Lovely Mark’—who picked fragrant roses from the garden on campus and wrote beautiful notes for me, signed ‘LM’. Lovely indeed! In those days, I wouldn’t have cared where we went or what we did, as long as we were together.
Go, and be thankful, I felt God whisper. Take this opportunity and enjoy!
Of course. I could choose to lay down my preferences and receive what Mark had so thoughtfully planned. The only way to receive the gift being offered with an open hand was to loosen my grip.
Firmly rebuked, I nodded and typed a quick reply:
‘Thank you, sir, for your kind invitation.
It is my honour and pleasure to accept. Xxx’
Friday rolled around, along with an ominous bank of grey clouds. While the sky darkened, we rugged up in thick jumpers and track pants and climbed into the car with our teenage daughter. We dropped her at youth group, bought our dinner at a local take away then drove to a headland overlooking the ocean. The wind was crazy-wild, roaring so powerfully up the slope that our car shook and shuddered under its force. It was too cold for a walk so we sat in the car—warm and cosy—munching on golden fish and chips and watching seagulls zip and slide on the howling gusts. Mark reached out the window with a chip and we watched one of the birds flap frantically just to get in position to snatch that morsel from his fingers. We laughed, we talked and our uptight minds began to unwind. And as they did, we remembered—who we were and where our love began.
The conversation drifted through our early memories—the days we went cruising along winding country roads in Mark’s big, old station wagon just to have time on our own; the evenings we bought lamb souvlakis from a little shop in Launceston then sat by the Tamar river, savouring quiet conversation and watching the moon’s reflection ripple on the water. Those were beautiful times when we dreamed of all the adventures we’d share once we were married. Our hearts were full of hope and anticipation.
And now, here we were, twenty-six years on—parents of four, soon-to-be grandparents—still dreaming and adventuring with God. Our voices grew soft and our words full of wonder as we remembered the ways God had led us through every predicament and breakthrough, every heartache and victory, through all the years between the days of LM and the present.
God’s presence and peace were so real, our car felt like a holy place.
Sometimes in marriage, it’s only by stripping away all the layers that build up around our relationship that we can strengthen our foundations.
We both felt it then—that shift in our hearts. Suddenly our long to-do lists and the busyness that had dimmed our joy seemed like no big deal. God hadn’t changed. Just as He had seen us and our children through all the years past, He would be enough for us in this new unfolding—whatever it held.
Our God was good. We could trust Him.
That night, what began as a simple date grew into something much more powerful. A time of celebration. A time of prayer and fresh surrender. A time that carried us home revived in hope and gratitude for the relationship we shared—a gift from God, made strong by His grace.