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I saw them through the window. It wasn’t my moment, but I froze anyway. Watched. Not that it was deep grief I saw. Nor even great joy. Just a needing of one another. A finding of peace and delight in the one who had, for so many years, been there for you.

And so like there was nothing else in the world more important, there on the driveway, with leaves scattered around, she laid a grey head against his chest. He, still towering above her, wrapped his arms around. And gently, gently, he rocked.

Three years, we came and went as neighbors. And it’s hard to hide from those living so close the truest state of affairs. That is, we could maybe hide a lot of bad, but it would take something a whole lot more to pretend a lot of good. To just sit there on your front porch sipping iced tea with lemon, pretending you both wanted to be there together, if in fact, you did not.

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And it’s not that either one pretended perfection. We heard the stories many times–around a bonfire, our faces lit orange in the night. Or in one of our living rooms, clutching cups of coffee that would keep us up all night. Or on their front porch when they asked us to join them, which they often did.

He would get to telling stories, and she would chip in. And his voice carried, sing-song like, rising here, dipping there, as the story rolled on. So yes, we heard it all. About the early days of their marriage, when he was trucking and she was left alone with her worry, trying to raise their two boys. About his swearing and rough-and-tumble ways before he came to the cross.

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Last month we were invited to help them celebrate their Golden–married fifty years! There in the township hall basement we gathered, their family and those of us blessed enough to be called friends.

I set my boys at a table, with vanilla cake and foamy punch, and circled round the room. Talked to her granddaughters (five of them, and she’s a boymom, too!). Looked at every photo. At her wedding dress displayed in the center of the room. And there, just beside it on the table–the place of honor in the room–the book I’d seen open on his lap, turned to this . . .

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And just below it, this . . .

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They’d neither one claim that every one of those fifty years was an easy one. What they would both make clear is that God stepped into their lives, changed them, and has been leading them ever since.

What they’d tell you, as they’ve told me, is that when you seek to follow the Lord, you may stumble, but you can never be on the wrong path. And that when one person does what’s best for the other, a marriage can survive. If both people do what’s best for the other, the marriage can thrive.

So thankful for their example in my life.

Avonlea xo

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The smell of rain as dusk fell. We bumped along the gravel road, windows down, past the old barn.  From the house, a row of smiles along the porch as they raised their hands farewell.

We’d spent the last of a warm autumn day there.

A birthday celebration.

Pumpkin cake, and coffee, and the smell of cinnamon candles.

Pushing the boys on the tire swing.

Gazing out across corn fields.

Watching a wool blanket on the wash line stir in the breeze.

Ideas flew. Memories, too.

Laughter bouncing over all.

And it breathed peace on me.

The space, and the home, and the people inside.

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Peace, because there, I can just be—unfiltered. Because if things were good, full saturated colors, I could say it. And they’d all say how happy they were for me. And no one would think I was boasting . . . because if things were greyscale bad, I could say that, too. And I would. And all their good and bad, they’d say it to me, too.

Peace, because there, I am enough. Peace, because people like these people would make anyone feel enough—and not just enough, but wanted. Valued as they are.

Yet earlier in the day I saw a friend’s face fall as she shared how her son’s friends had all joined a new soccer league without bothering to tell her. She and her son thought they were “in,” but turns out they were not. And they are new to this place, the family, and it was such a struggle to call a strange place home. And neighbors and schoolmates could have made that all different, but in their busyness, and the fun they were having with each other, they did not.

Oh, how fun it looks at the center of it all. Where things are happening, and people are pretty and smart. Where marriages, and outfits, and landscaping all seem together. Filter-perfect images of a seemingly perfect life. And if you’re perfect enough then they might let you “in,” because being a Christian, or being a human is somehow not enough.

But we see through it, yes, we see it—when eyes glance to the side, looking for someone more important than you to speak with. Someone they could better benefit from. When they glance you up and down and you know you’re not quite right. When the smile is with the mouth but not the heart.

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So they can have “in,” if they want it, for I know what they miss. Judging books by their covers is never wise. And when filter-perfect is all you’ve got, how can you have peace, knowing that if they catch you unfiltered—see you for who you really are—you just might be “out,” too.

Yes, too many of the best friends come with wrinkled skin, or old cars, or hurt. And those who have known hurt, and broken, and ugly, can turn out to be the ones we love the most. They have the strongest arms to lean on. The best wisdom to share. And though beauty or riches may be theirs, they will not point it out to you. Will not flaunt it. Rather, they see it as something to share.

It’s hard for me, too. Proud one that I can be. Ashamed one, fearing in my deepest heart that someone will catch me unfiltered—see a corner of my house, a piece of my wardrobe, a glimpse of my marriage that will reveal me as the flawed person that I am. But though I know I will not click with everyone, let me yet be the one who can live unfiltered enough with my home, and my smile, and my time, that for the length of my interaction with each person, I can make them feel seen. Feel enough. Feel loved.

Dare to live unfiltered. To know and to be known.

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @avonleaqkruegerFacebook @avonleaqkrueger

See you there!

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