Fish, Pray, Love

{By Kelli Woodford}


I didn’t mean to fall out of love with my husband.


But as the weary weeks turned slowly into months and we continued at break-neck speed in opposite directions – two jobs, an internship and seven kids between us – the feeling ebbed away with the tide. Oh, it wasn’t the first thing to go. Not by a long shot. First, we forgot how to laugh. It was details and organizing and babysitters and laundry and can you pick up pizza for dinner? Because when you’re in survival mode, I mean, who has time for a chuckle?


Then, we lost our physical intimacy. To weekend schedules and children with nightmares who needed to squeeze between us in bed. To week-long battles with strep throat and that monthly thing. But mostly from just plain exhaustion.


But I noticed it most when we lost our ability to talk. Because where do you start when you’ve traveled so many miles in opposite directions that the only ground between you is uncommon? How do you remember how to finish each other’s sentences when the only sentences you speak never finish at all, but trail off into fitful sleep? When do you make time for listening to the silences behind the words – hearing the heart – when the daylight grows short with your patience and all you want to do is put your feet up, for the love?


And so I began to pray. Because love is a mystery, the way it conquers all and ebbs and flows. The way it confounds the wise with whom it chooses and how it yearns for expression. Only God knows how the heart is turned, and I began to ask that mine be turned again:


From stone to flesh.


Then, it was my birthday. He had bought a canoe against my better judgment, “because he wanted to connect with the kids,” he said. And fishing was his way. I had sighed the tiredness right out of my eyes and walked away. Then I had watched as that canoe sat in the yard, day after day, week after week, never used for more than a rainwater collection. More sighing.


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But on my birthday, he strapped it to the top of the car and loaded the three-year-old up in his car seat and waited for me. We drove to the nearest (read: ONLY) lake in the vicinity and launched.


As usual, the silence suspended between us. But it was a different silence this time, somehow. A fuller one. The hint of a promise tapped our shoulders like a taste of the crisp wind. We stroked the water with our paddles, letting the toddler dip his fingers in. We watched in amazement as the blue heron alit from his perch, fluid flight over the surface of the lake. We laughed at the bobber on the end of the fishing pole, now caught in seaweed, now on a branch.


Fish flipped to our left and right. Though we chased them, we never caught any. But sunlight danced and flecked on the lip of the waves and blue stretched out in every direction I shaded my eyes to look. Never had I felt what was old become so new again. Was it me who was three-years-old and tasting the dampness of the seaweed in every breeze? Would I remember how the worm squirmed in his palm or how the leaves bore witness to the season all around the edges of the lake? Wasn’t I there for the very first time?


It felt like rebirth.


Something began to happen out there on that lake. There were no schedules or whiny children. There were no interruptions or dirty dishes, calling from the sink. Every distraction was minimized so that what was perhaps most essential might emerge.


We were present one to the other.


Fully present. Letting the moment sink in like sunshine into the hungry skin of our shoulders. Holding the space and for once not filling it with imaginations of what the other was thinking. Not projecting criticisms or complaints. Not constructing impossible standards or comparisons. Just being, in all our imperfect humanness. Flawed and awkward, yes. But home.


Perhaps my prayers were being answered.



[photo credit: Tammy, at Laity Lodge]



kelli bio picKelli Woodford has always had a quirky penchant for collecting quotes. The words she feels at home in most, though, are from Mr. Mark Twain himself, “One must travel to learn.” While she hasn’t hung her hat in every one of the fifty states or abroad, she has been known to travel compulsively in the world of ideas. Kelli considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. Kelli engages us with her writing as part of the writer’s team. You can follow Kelli on her personal blog, or on facebook and twitter.





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16 Comments on “Fish, Pray, Love

  1. Oh Kelli, this is just beautiful. Doesn’t surprise me because your words are always beautiful but has touched my heart deep because it speaks to similar feelings since my husband returned back home. “Never had I felt what was old become so new again.” I didn’t fall out of love while he was away but I have before. But what we have right now still feels new. A new beginning. Don’t you just love how God does that? Goodness here, friend. Much love. xoxo

    • Yes. I do love how the rebirth comes, Beth. I’m sure you know it well, having been separated by more than just busy schedules. … Thank you for connecting and sharing a piece of yourself here. You bless me.

  2. What is it about Kelli and all her lovely words that always make me swoon? Oh yes… it’s that lovely heart of hers that she is constantly giving back to Him!

  3. God is answering your prayers, Kelli. Being present with another despite all the distractions and obligations, the flaws and insecurities, is truly sacred. May you continue to find healing as you unveil your hearts and place balm on each other’s wounds. You and Jason inspire me. I love you!

    • Well, the inspiration is mutual, sweet Paula. Love the way you and Grady have grown and changed and continue to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders in whatever life brings. … Thanks for reading. And for your kind words.

  4. Kelli, I almost didn’t comment, but I had to for you have shared an important truth with your audience…vulnerability and honesty. You have it, and your husband knows it. In fact, he probably could have wrote these words, too. Marriage and obligations, exhaustion and yearnings take their toll on those who value what is sacred. As I read the short bio of you next to your photo, I rejoice that you two are best friends. I have been working way too many hours for too long. I, too, have a best friend that I live with. What your words have done is remind me how important it is to be her companion regardless of the exhaustion and distractions. Thank you for being real.

    • I truly feel that the most I (or any of us) have to offer comes out of that realness, Michael. But thank you for sharing the way this touched you. Thank you for even getting specific. Means a lot to me.

  5. Hi Kelli! You describe the lives of many in your description of the slow drift to disconnection in your marriage. I could relate! God is so creative, he brought you together through fishing? Isn’t that crazy? I love it!
    I think the key really was your prayer. When we ask, he comes running. And you were ready!
    This was a powerful post. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your faith,

  6. Fully present. Yes! I always have to remind myself of this. To be fully present wherever I am! Not be too busy to see, and feel, and love. Glad your husband is your best friend!!! patsy

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