Honestly, it could have been a trip to the basement of our first apartment in Hartland, MI, and it would have been almost as good, because I had Chris. No phone to pull him in one direction or children to pull me in the other.
The way it came about was really by accident. Chris was planning to meet in Rome with someone, regarding some future ventures, when the following conversation occurred between us:
Him: “I think I am going to need you to go to Rome.”
Me: “Alright, well I will start working on a babysitter.”
Him: “You would go with me?! That would be awesome!! I was dreading the trip, hating the time away from you guys, but if you go, it would be so much better!”
Me: “I thought you said you ‘I think I am going to need you to go to Rome.’”
Him: “That’s ok if that’s how you heard it, it was meant to be. What I had said was, ‘I think I am going to need to go to Rome.’”
The misunderstanding led to an un-misunderstandable display of emotions: his. He was SO excited at the thought of me coming along- how could I disappoint?
I know what you are thinking: who would not want to go to Rome? Why would this be a question?
A little insight into me, and you would see that I am frugal, and Rome is not. I am frugal with time away from my children, and business trips with my husband have many options. I have been to Rome several times in the last few years, and although I love Italy, I am a country girl, and Rome is indeed a city. I could go on listing the hundreds of logistical reasons I needed to stay home: the home school that was on pace, the diet and exercise just getting back into a routine, the Good Friday service for which I have been practicing with the choir, the garden to put in, the tasks that always seem behind in my life, the fact that we will be going to Italy as a family in a couple months anyway, needing to book a trip to see my folks in CO, etc.
But there was one reason to go: the excitement that was on my husband’s face at the thought of it.
Sometimes, I come upon a woman who feels it is her lifetime job to be the string and weight attached to her husband’s balloon, to keep him down to earth where he belongs. Maybe she’s not even a string and weight, but a wet cloth, lying on top, between the man and his dreams, to make sure there is no heat that gets through. Quite honestly, the thought runs through my head every time, “That could have been me!”
When Chris first came to me – while we were in engineering school- with the thought of racing Baja trucks across the desert, I put down the idea, with the biggest balloon tugging I could muster. Not married, or engaged for that matter, we had received a wonderful gift from God: good timing of a deep conversation.
“So you like me if I am a good-little-engineering student who wants a 9-to-5 job at a manufacturing company, but you would have issues if I wanted to do something a little off your defined beaten path?” he asked.
“No…” I had to deny the accusation, because of course I knew that kind of conditional love was wrong, but I really didn’t have any other reason for telling him that the Baja sounded like a waste of time…and dangerous too! Deep down, I was dangerously close to loving the prideful answer I could give when describing the man I was dating: “an engineer.” A Baja driver? not so much.
I look back now and see a young couple beginning to get to know each other. I saw God laying out the stepping-stones of what would be- riding in a balloon in the ups and downs of life –often his balloon soaring high and me trying to catch him.
The Baja dream was only the beginning of my big dreamer’s crazy dreams unfolding. During our engagement, he told me of his desire to be a published author, as he loves to write. I was thrilled that he felt comfortable enough to reveal his real dreams, despite my prior Baja put-downs; I prayed I would not apply the dreaded damp cloth. One year after marriage, he announced (after hiding it from me for four months!- probably aware of my damp-cloth tendency) that he had heard about a new business venture with a guy named Orrin Woodward, and he thought it was his way to get free from a job. I felt my grip of the balloon string loosening, because I finally didn’t desire to yank it down, but watched to see where it would go.
His dreams continued to fuel his balloon, which seemed to have some valuable hot air 🙂 as it soared to get free from his engineering job (and me from mine, too), write his first eight books, own a second home in Florida, vacation for a month at a time in Italy, and the “crazy dream” list could go on. But by the grace of God, I stopped trying to pull down on the string in those first months when the income from that new business was $32. It was then that I really wasn’t sure if God had created him to be a high-flyer, but I did know that God had not created me to be his ballast weight.
Fast-forward to now and his recent excitement over my going along on the trip to Rome. There was so much more to this. It wasn’t that he just didn’t want me pulling down his string, but that he wanted me to ride alongside. I don’t know if my analogy would have us in the basket of a hot-air balloon together, or flying balloons side by side, but regardless, I am thrilled to be the one with whom he chooses to fly. Our balloon ride has had lows of collapsed restaurant ownerships and serious illnesses, wrecked cars and bug-infested basement apartments, but I am so grateful that we were riding together, at all of the altitudes. Sometimes the highest-flying days were simple picnics watching a sunset, mountain biking in the neighborhood or a paddle ball game in the park, as a break from our intense studying.
Girlfriend, if I had any advice for myself of 20 years ago, it would be: Dear Terri, When you’ve been given a man who wants to fly, encourage him to fly to the highest potential for which God created him; resist any urge to pull him down.
If I had thoughts to share with a sister presently in the midst of demands of motherhood, it would be: sometimes the damp cloth needs to be applied to the tasks that wait at home (and will still be waiting upon return), because when your husband asks, “Would you ride in the balloon with me?” it’s time to climb into the basket and soar. Whether you go to a park, the basement apartment, or Rome, Italy, soaring in a beautiful balloon together just might result in a soaring, beautiful marriage.