on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

One Down, Two to Go

This is the twenty-first in a series written by Malcolm Marler and Mary Bea Sullivan, husband and wife, about their journey as Mary, an author, goes to Virginia Theological Seminary to get her Master of Divinity degree and eventually become an Episcopal priest.  Malcolm is a director of pastoral care at a hospital in Alabama.

“He Said,” by Malcolm

Mary and Malcolm at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, April 2012

As I type these words, I can feel the excitement in my heart and the distractions in my brain at the end of this day at work.

In approximately 24 hours, I will pick up Mary at the airport and welcome her home from her first year in seminary.  One down, two to go.

Mary will arrive Tuesday, May 15, 2012, late in the evening and already has a full summer planned ahead.  I will let her tell you about her four jobs that she knitted together like a beautiful quilt.

My pure joy is that she will be home for three months.  Three!  Right now that sounds like balm for my soul.  I’m taking the rest of the week off so that I can look into those deep brown eyes.

We have survived, adjusted, and even thrived at times during this first year of living in two states, much like we did in our first year of marriage in 2004 when Mary and the children were in Chapel Hill, NC and I was in Birmingham.

A few quick observations.

1.  The first semester was difficult.  Those first few months surprised me how much I struggled personally.  I had to develop a new routine, I was lonely, and lost my way most of the time.  Everything seemed harder including exercise, meals, my work and nurturing my spiritual life.

2. The second semester was better, but not easy.  I remember the day I made a decision to take more responsibility for my daily happiness.  This was a good thing.  I looked in the mirror and realized I needed to exercise more, eat healthier, and start thinking about self-care.  I’ve made some changes and still have a ways to go.

3.  Skype, phone calls, texts, personal cards, and visiting every 2-3 weeks have kept us connected.  However, cell phone coverage is not good in Mary’s dorm, and Skype is inconsistent in our rural home.  But, I don’t know how we would have made it without technology.  Those of you who know me are not surprised by this statement.

4.  Finally, I could not be more proud of my wife who has excelled academically.  But even more than that, I can hear the personal growth, confidence, and the maturity in her voice.  She doesn’t realize how much I am learning from her experience in seminary.  Even if from afar.

Mary is exactly where she is supposed to be.  And so am I.  Of course, we both wish we were in the same place.

Life moves ahead, and I thank God in advance for the next three months.

One year down, two to go.

This is a sacrifice on both of our parts.  But, we can do this.

With God’s help.


  1. Carol Henderson

    Congratulations to both of you. I imagine you on the lake and hope you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the sunsets and the magical waters.

  2. Leighton Cubbage

    Great blog. I cant stand being away from my wife for an afternoon. You guys are sacrificing for the good of the Lord’s work.
    God Bless and love,

  3. Malcolm

    Dear Carol and Leighton,

    Thanks so much for your comments and encouragement. In the big picture, I know we are doing the right thing, and that helps keep our eyes on our goals and calling.

    There are moments of feeling overwhelmed or that we can’t do it, but almost always one of us encourages the other. Having friends pull for us from a distance helps more than you know. Just a little comment here and there nudges us along.

    With thanksgiving,

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