Thirty Years of No Other Way to Go

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Today is December 31, 2005, New Year’s Eve. It is also my thirtieth anniversary. Nancy and I were married New Year’s Eve, 1975. It took us a few years to figure out why the restaurants were always so crowded when we went out to celebrate.

I met Nancy the year before we married, but I had heard about her before that. I was coming near the end of my hitch in the Navy, and one day, in a phone conversation with my mother, she told me that she didn’t care what kind of girl I brought home — so long as it was a girl like Nancy Greensides. Huh, I thought, and filed that away. It wasn’t an arranged marriage or anything, but it was pre-approval from mom, a very wise woman.

Sometime later I was home on leave from the Navy for a week or two, and during that time, Nancy came down to Moscow from Couer d’Alene (where her folks live) to double check the final details on a job she had with the Christian bookstore that my dad was running. She had graduated from the UI in English Lit, and was brought on staff by InterVarsity (half time) with the other half of her time going to Community Christian Ministries, which ran Crossroads Bookstore. She wanted to firm things up, and so she drove down with a friend, and I met Nancy at my parents’ house.

The upshot of meeting her was that I was impressed with my mother’s taste. Huh, I thought again. The cool thing about this was that because Nancy was going on staff with several Christian ministries, I could just become one of her financial supporters, and have a good excuse to include a letter along with a monthly check. As the Scripture says, wise as serpents, innocent as . . . well, it wasn’t that innocent. But it was still a very good idea. I had a year left in the Navy, I was supporting other folks in various ministries as well, and it was the most natural way in the world to get acquainted. And so we corresponded for a year, perhaps with a bit more diligence than the typical support relationship called for.

As the year progressed, I was increasingly impressed with her. During that time, my father came out to visit me (I was homeported out of Norfolk, stationed on a fast attack submarine, the USS Ray), and I told him that I was interested in one of his staff back in Idaho. This was all good with him, but there was a problem. Nancy was the kind of lovely young Christian lady who had caused more than one young man in the Christian community to bay at the moon, barge into furniture and such like. These young men would then come to my dad to get pastoral counsel about their chances. So one time my father was talking to Nancy about so-and-so (nah) and maybe this other swell guy (nope). In the course of that conversation, it was inadvertently revealed that my monthly letters and check were not simply focused on the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This threw Nancy into a dither because I was her boss’s son, and suppose I came back and it wasn’t that hot of an idea, and then there would be Complications.

I got out of the Navy in August of 75, and came back to the UI to study philosophy. And, if it’s myself that says it, I was a perfect gentleman. By this I mean I did not announce to Nancy that she was the Will of God for Me. But I did spend a lot of time volunteering in the bookstore before school started, which was natural enough, since it was my dad’s bookstore. Right around that time, the bookstore understood a significant remodel, which meant working evenings down there, painting and so on. While painting, it kept happening that Nancy and I were interested in getting the same section of the store painted, and so we had a lot of time to visit. One evening, another young man (a fine Christian fellow) came into the store and asked Nancy to do something with him (I forget what it was), but his interest in her was quite interesting to me. Nancy very graciously declined, but he persisted. She declined once or twice more. After he left, Nancy was concerned that she had been too abrupt with him, or hard on him, or something. I was of the school of thought that maintained she had not been nearly hard enough, and so I told her so. This is how you need to handle guys like that, was my advice. But afterwards my conscience smote me because I realized I had not been giving objective counsel. I needed to talk to her about it. I think it really was my conscience, but I also think I realized I needed to talk with her, and having a conscience problem was a good reason to talk.

Both of us had dated before, and while we did not understand the courtship model, we had both come to the conviction that dating was not what we wanted to do. So we got together for a visit at my request, and I confessed to her that I was interested in her, but that I was not interested in a girl friend. That was an interesting conversation. Okay and oh were the only possible responses. About a week later, I realized that in my buffle-headed way I had not really given her anything to respond to, and so we took a long walk around Moscow, and I proposed to her. I had all kinds of reasons, which I laid out for her. Now there was something to respond to. Two days later, we went on our first date, and the next day she said yes, she would marry me. That was in late September, and we got married three months later at the end of December. That was, and remains, the single greatest blessing that God has ever given to me in this life.

For those who are interested in my gratitude, let me share just a few representative pictures of our time together, and of what she was like, from different stages in our marriage. One time, when we were newly-weds, I came home from school or work for lunch or something, and found a perfect snapshot of what she was like then. She had a pair of jeans that she had cut the inseam out of, and had made into a long, full-length denim skirt. It had a bright green tree embroidered on it, and the tree grew up from the hem. When I came into the living room, she was wearing that and a very pretty blouse, curled up in an armchair reading her Bible, with headphones on, listening to Jethro Tull. That about says it all.

As God blessed us with children, it became quickly evident to me that she was simply a fantastic mother — competent, humorous, protective, diligent, strict, loving, and about as much fun as the kids could handle. She had many terms of endearment for the hamhocks, as I called them, and hers included, but were not limited to, “turkey noodle, sport cake, banana heads,” and, my personal favorite, “workers of iniquity.” She would bestow on the kids in countless ways. She didn’t just do what parents have to do, but would also figure out blessings to throw on top of that. When the kids were in the bath, for example, she would toss a towel in the dryer for them, so they would come out of the bath to a hot towel.

I was teaching a number of classes at Logos School, and as our kids all got to school age and were attending there, Nancy substituted one year, finishing out the year for another teacher, and found that she loved it. And so for a number of years following, she was there teaching as well. The entire family was involved in the life of the school, and she did not leave teaching until the year our youngest daughter graduated, and our oldest daughter had our first grandchild. And so she left teaching to be a fantastic mother to grown children, and a world-class grandmother to our grandkids (nine of them now, soon to be ten). This Christmas season just past, she put together small working crews with manageable numbers of grandkids in order to help each of them make a gingerbread house.

She is a trooper. The ministry that I have been called to has brought with it the side benefit of me receiving a goodish bit of slander. Whether on the front page of the newspaper, or on the op-ed page, or in national magazines, or in bogus legal proceedings, or treachery from former friends, there has been more than enough to stumble over. But she never has, and always responds in a biblical way — she is something of a fierce Puritan when it comes to these things (love, forgiveness, and justice perfectly mingled), and I have been the beneficiary of her counsel in countless situations. She is a wise woman, and knows exactly what is going on.

She is a superb cook. Every Saturday night we have our sabbath feast, and she puts on a spread that almost amounts to a weekly Thanksgiving, and on average we have between seventeen and twenty-five people sitting down with us. Nancy and I usually sit at opposite ends of our long table, and from where I sit, I can see nothing but blessings, the preeminent of them at the far end.

And so, there it is. Thirty years of no other way for me to go. God has blessed me with a woman who is smart, lovely, talented, funny, compassionate, shrewd, gifted in teaching, generous, humble, aesthetically balanced and gifted, and who loves the doctrines of grace and the Word of God. Thirty years.

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