Do Your Life Together
by Drenda Keesee
Gary and I have a two-seater bike that we love to ride on our quaint country roads. Last spring, despite being repeatedly told we were crazy to try it as well as not being in great shape, we decided to take a hundred-mile tandem bicycle ride around Lake Tahoe, California. It was advertised as “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride,” and I pictured this really fun, daring, romantic day of adventure.
That’s how you thought marriage was going to be, right? You think, Oh, my spouse is going to bring me breakfast in bed. Oh, he’s going to tell me how much he loves me every day. Life is going to be so fun and romantic. When we have children, they’re going to be perfectly dressed and perfectly behaved. And you don’t think about the hundreds of diapers you’ll be changing, or what it’s going to be like when you have to bike up a seven-mile stretch of mountain road hitched with this other person to your bike.
My picture of Lake Tahoe couldn’t have been further from the truth. Lake Tahoe was surrounded by daunting mountains! But wait, it gets worse. On the day before the bike ride, I was in line to register us and get our gear. The man standing in front of me turned around and asked the question I was dreading. “So, how long have you been training?”
I forced a smile. “Well, we haven’t really been training,” I admitted. I could almost feel the judgment seeping from the people around me who had been training for months upon months, and some for a year. “We’ve done twenty miles on our tandem bicycle.”
“You’re doing this on a tandem bicycle?” he asked, appalled. “And you’re going to go a hundred miles tomorrow?”
“Yeah, my husband and I are doing it together.”
“You’re crazy!” he exclaimed. “You might as well throw in the towel right here! There’s no way you’re doing a hundred miles. I’ve been training and getting in shape for this, and I can only do the seventy-two-mile route.”
I had to stand in line by that man for thirty minutes and listen to him tell me how there was no way Gary and I could accomplish this bike ride. He was much younger and more athletic than us, so it was intimidating. Luckily, when somebody tells me I can’t do something, it only motivates me more. I committed to crossing that finish line, even if only to prove this man wrong.
When I finally got up to the registration table, the lady asked, “Are you sure the hundred-mile route is what you want to do?”
I had to decide if we were going to choose the harder road to success. The word was almost painful as it escaped my mouth. “Yes.”
We started on the flat part of the ride, and it was fun and beautiful. It was just like life—you start out so good, so naive, so full of newlywed expectations. As we got farther into it, we started hitting some hills. And it started getting a little hard. As I watched the stretches of steep roads spreading far ahead of us, I realized how impossible coming back appeared. These sections were miles and miles long of nonstop climb. We were already tired, and we’d already gone much farther than we ever had before.
By the time we arrived at the lunch stop, Gary didn’t want to eat. He was pale and spent. I could tell that he was getting too tired to go on, and we still had miles of mountain ahead of us. I went into my “prayer closet,” which happened to be the portable potty there, and I began praying out loud, forgetting that I wasn’t in the privacy of my home. I usually pace when I pray intensely, but in the portable potty, there was only room to sway back and forth as I pleaded, “God, please help us! Give us the grace to do this!”
I marched out of the portable potty, and the people around it stared at me. A man standing by said, “Are you all right?” I guess I had been praying a little louder than I thought. I returned to Gary, determined to get us back on the road and to the finish line. I felt God’s grace on me.
“I don’t know, Drenda—” he mumbled weakly. “Don’t say anything. We’re going to be fine.”
I got him to stand up, then walk, then get back on the bike. Off we went again! We finally hit eighty-three miles. The only problem was that the next eleven miles were straight up the worst climb of the entire bike ride. We were so close to one hundred miles, yet so far away! But how could we stop so close to our dream?
Both of us were exhausted, Gary was dehydrated, and we struggled mentally to go on. He stretched out, resting and rehydrating, as I walked in circles keeping my legs moving and trying not to lose faith. Then a male spectator insulted Gary by saying, “She must be the athlete in the family.” In that moment I knew that though my man was down, he would rise to rescue me as he had done so many times, and it was my turn to help him finish his dream. So I did what we women know how to do best; I appealed to his manhood ever so gently, offering to push the bike up the hill and encouraging him to catch up with me when he was able. He immediately got up and joined me! Riding again, I told Gary how awesome he is (and he is!) and cheered him, and we peddled as never before. I kept saying, “Once we get to the top of this hill, we will coast almost the entire way to the finish line.” I prayed for wind, and for anything to help us make those last five miles when all had looked lost.
When we reached the mountain top, a surge of joy hit us both, and we flew down faster than I could imagine, going forty-five miles an hour on curvy mountainous drops. I closed my eyes, trusted my husband to steer, and prayed even harder, but I wasn’t about to tell this man to slow down after what he had done!
We finished that race. We passed many of the cyclists who had taunted us, because we had more momentum going downhill with two on one bike. And we crossed the finish line to cowbells and shouts, and our family was waiting for us, cheering for us. That was a great moment for Gary and me. After we crossed the finish line, we hugged each other and broke into tears. We embraced, and I could feel our hearts beating as one. We were so proud of each other. We’d worked as a team and accomplished something that seemed impossible, and we also finished ahead of many of the naysayers who had passed us as we struggled on mile eighty-three.
It was much like the journey we have traveled together over life . . . a naive couple takes on a family, the dreams, the struggles, the disappointments, the challenges, the love, the encouragement, the teamwork, the deep respect, and care for each other because of the many miles traveled as one.
Life is better when we do life together.
Excerpt from “The New Vintage Family” by Drenda Keesee
Drenda Keesee’s contagious zeal and humorous personal experiences help make her ministry of spiritual, emotional and relational wholeness one that will bless your life and spark a new fire in your spirit.
A wife of over 30 years and a mother of five children, Drenda has ministered at churches, seminars, and conferences, and through the mediums of television and radio, for more than 20 years.
Her books, The New Vintage Family, Better Than You Think, and She Gets It are available wherever books are sold. In these heartfelt books, Drenda shares her personal journey and the life lessons that have brought her to where she is today, as well as practical answers that all people need to live a joyful life.
Drenda and her husband Gary founded Faith Life Now, a ministry designed to spread the message of freedom in the areas of finances, faith, marriage, and family. Faith Life Now hosts conferences worldwide, and sponsors both Fixing the Money Thing, which Drenda co-hosts with her husband Gary, and Drenda.
Through their own life experiences, the Keesees have found the principles from God’s Word to be powerful and effective. At one point, Drenda was a young, suicidal feminist with no hope of ever being “good enough” for her own standards of perfection. She never wanted the “inconvenience” of a husband or children, and she was on her own path to success. But the stress of trying to achieve perfection and perform for love left her broken and used. She had success, but it was nothing compared to the pain and loneliness it had also brought.
That’s when God got a hold of her heart. It was there—at her lowest point—that she found the One who accepted and loved her, faults and all. Since that transformation, Drenda has had a passion to reach women who find themselves where she once was.
She married Gary after attending college, and there she found herself in a personal boot camp of sorts. She says, “I cried and told God, ‘I can do anything but be a wife and mother.’” She committed to learning how to do it God’s way. Through the many years of raising their children and struggling to make ends meet, Drenda learned from their mistakes. “I didn’t know how to be a wife and mother, but God saved our marriage, taught us how to parent our children for success, showed us how to have financial success, and then irony of all ironies, He called us to ministry.” It’s truly because of these life experiences that Drenda can now share so many insightful principles for people who are now going through the same struggles.