Romancing the Stone

I have never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day –  too much pressure. Especially those dread times when a relationship is strained –  you know that special day  is coming and fear it will be awkward at best and painful at worst.

IMG_7744Equally paralyzing though, are the good times. I mean really… how do you adequately thank someone for loving you for say… 28 years? In our case, exactly 28 years. Our very first date was Valentine’s Day 1982 and we were married seven months later.

What gift, poem, song, or gesture is up to the challenge of honouring someone who so wonderfully mothered three tremendous  kids and whose  natural and delightful way with your two grandchildren is nothing short of remarkable?

How do you honour someone who believes in you more than you do yourself, and whose support of your vocation was, and is, given at great personal cost?

How do you celebrate beauty that after 28 years still leaves you weak in the knees?

Valentine’s Day can’t possibly deliver on its promises.

Pax Lardo
Pax Lardo

All that being said – I think we just had our best Valentine’s ever. It has been such a long time since Nance and I have had any decent time alone together. Nanci was with our daughter Sarah for the month of December, helping her receive our new grandchild Pax Carlo. (I’m now starting to call him Pax Lardo because he seems to be a bit of a butter-ball compared to his skinny older brother who is composed of chicken wire and coy.)

Returning from her month away, Nanci immediately started a new teaching job which demanded a few weeks of concentrated time and effort. Then  Sarah and family came to visit for a week, after which my touring season started up again as I headed out to California for an eight day tour with Nanci staying home to mark end-of-term exams and get report cards ready.

When I returned from California I knew we had to find somewhere to go, just for a couple of days, to break the coolish pattern of negotiation/business relating that often results from sustained seasons of busyness. We needed a chance for that easy affection, which drew us together in the first place, to assert its rightful place.

I found a hotel resort up in Hecla Island (a few hours north of Winnipeg)  that happened to have a two-day Valentine’s package offering a great room, several therapeutic spa pools, a magnificent restaurant and a restful break from the relentless demands of managing home and vocation.

foodAwesome  – it was just awesome! We watched two movies and enthusiastically followed the Olympics. We spent hours in the mineral waters and hot tub, steam bath and Nordic-plunge pool. We spent lazy mornings reading. We enjoyed magnificent food, champagne, uninterrupted conversation and sleep. And somewhere in there, the  stony knot of task and duty readily gave way to tender fondness, laughter and love.  We really couldn’t afford those two days, but I’m so glad we ignored restraint and reason.

Now it’s back to reality. And honestly? – reality is not so bad. We’re both blessed with work we enjoy and find meaningful. We do love our home, family, neighbours, friends and happily accept the obligations such privileges demand. Our own relationship will continue to glide and bump along as relationships always do. But happily tucked into our memories is one more little escape into rest and tenderness which can be drawn on for strength when cacophony bellows. And bellow it will.

Newly weds
Newly weds

Twenty-eight years ago, I couldn’t begin to imagine what married life would be like three decades down the road. I couldn’t imagine the joys and terrors child-rearing would bring. I couldn’t imagine the profound struggles, the wounds and the wounding, the need for healing,  the disappointments and the great and many, wonderful surprises.  But after all these years I can say some simple things.  Marriage is good.  Covenantal love is good. Sometimes, in the highly polemicized public debates about rights and definitions, we lose sight of the fact that the essence of the thing itself is profoundly good. And I feel extremely grateful that I have been blessed to know and give witness to  the bright goodness of something even though its shadow is undeniably part of the human experience. Thanks be to God.


Old-ly weds

BTW – I’m singing several times at a weekend couple’s  (marriage) retreat at the Banff Springs Hotel April 30 – May 2nd.  I’ve never been part of such an event before but I know the organizers very well and it promises to be a great weekend for those who are able to take advantage of it.  Here is a LINK to the event but details are limited for just a couple more days. Next week we’ll post all the particulars.  It would be fun if some of you could join me there. Ironically, you won’t get a chance to meet Nanci as her work makes it impossible  for her to attend.

I’ll leave you with a song I wrote years ago which recounts feelings and thoughts I had on my way back home after a six week tour away from my beloved wife.

Click song title to listen:


[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Alone Tonight” dl=”0″]
Music by Steve Bell | Lyric by Steve Bell and Byron O’Donnell

Still a ways to Manitoba
Been awhile since I’ve been gone
Been a day since we were talkin’ on the phone
Still ahead, the longest distance
Just the last few miles to go
Lord I pray, there’s only one smile at the door

Will we be all alone tonight
Just to be what we both know is right
Will a candle be burning, will love have a chance to ignite
Will the rest give us just one more day
Lord, I hope she has planned it that way
All I want is to know, will be be all alone tonight

If our friends are all there with her
oh the night will never end
and I’ll just have to smile and try to act surprised
I suppose we’ll laugh at all my stories
We’ll be glad I’m home again
But I’ll just die each time I look into her eyes

Oh how I miss her
I can’t wait for that moment at the door
Just like I rehearsed it
Over and over

Album: Romantics and Mystics
Album: Romantics and Mystics



The song Alone Tonight appears on Steve’s 1997 JUNO Award winning album Romantics and Mystics. To view album, listen to song clips or purchase, click HERE



16 thoughts on “Romancing the Stone

  1. Dear Steve: That is truly a beautiful song – Alone Tonight. So you actually wrote that 30 years ago? That is wonderful.

    I am truly in awe of you, Sir. You light up the world with your music and your time and yes God gave you that Talent, Thank you from me to you.

    If there were a way to get to any of your many singing engagements I would truly be there to cheer you on and to make you smile some too.

    from me to you
    the pimple on your face

  2. You’ve gotten quite a bit uglier over the years, Steve, but Nanci has turned into a silver fox! Yowza!

    Good for you two to get away. You pack some solid marriage advice in this blog, my man.

    And thanks for posting one of the Great Love Songs of Our Time. I think it’s the first song we ever played together, and it’s still one of my absolute top faves.

    Reply from Steve: Ha! Thanks John. If I remember right, we played this song in your living room a few decades back. Me on guitar, you on bass with our swooning wives at our sides 🙂

  3. Beautifully written, Steve. And that is still one of my favourite songs of yours. I remember that I startled you by calling it out as a request at a concert in Ontario a few years back. At that time you weren’t sure you still remembered the words. Glad to see that you’ve remembered them, and the sentiment behind them.

  4. Very transparent and touching. I’ve been married for 33 years and it just gets better and better. And Hecla is one of my power spots in summer. Can’t say I’ve ever been there in winter but it must have a sublime quality.

  5. II agree with the fact that this blog has lots of great marital advice and I printed it off to share at our small group.
    Thanks, Steve for taking the time to write these encouraging and inspiring blogs as well as your wonderful music.
    Blessings on you and your silver fox!!

  6. Steve, you never cease to amaze me with your transparency, authenticity, and music. May God continue to bless your marriage. I know that your advice will bless my marriage; and the sacredness of this covenant has profoundly struck me once again. Your words help me to remember how fun it is to passionately pursue my wife. Duty and tasks are important; but sometimes you just have to drop it and take time to with your spouse to do something special that rises above everyday responsibilities.

    Thank you Steve, for making yourself a vessel for God to use.

  7. My husband and I will be in Banff at the marriage conference. I encourage all married couples to invest in their marriage and come to the conference. You invest in your work, your kids, your church – how have you invested in your marriage lately? You will have no regrets! Just come.

  8. Thanks for the song. I have that album, and, I think all of your albums, and most of you freinds music as well.

    Thanks for your music and the gift that you were given.
    Bill and Susan Schlegel

  9. Thanks again, Steve!! Very inspiring…particularly given that I’m now 3 1/2 months into what will hopefully be as meaningful and fulfilling a journey as your 28 years have been! 🙂 Great to see you in Menlo Park recently, and terrific that you got to meet my amazing, newlywed bride Megan!
    Your friend and brother in Christ —

  10. Thanks for that Steve. I’m 8 years and 3 children ( + one on the way) in and God has been so good to us. I have a playlist of romantic songs that Janice and I listen to when we’re no dates and this song is one that list!

  11. Steve,

    Beautiful words and wonderful sentiment from a beloved child of our great God! I love how God speaks through your pen and your music and I treasure the tunes that have become part of my worship repertoire. Great relationships have as their foundation a great God and it is obvious that the covenantal relationship you share with Nance is built on such a solid, steadfast and sure foundation as the one which was laid for us by our loving brother, Jesus. I hope to see you in the New England area some time soon… Been missing you!

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