I was just a month past my teens and freshly turned twenty, sixteen long years ago. He’d won my heart years before, when I wasn’t even old enough to drive a car. Against all odds, we were still an inseparable pair and despite the long distance of college, he asked me to share the rest of life with him. I asked him first if he’d asked my dad (he had!) and then I said yes. A few weeks later we went on a walk with a friend and her camera and she snapped this photo:
A year of planning and dreaming and anticipating what life together would look like. Quiet walks and plenty of time to talk. Coffee dates whenever we pleased and the occasional jump into the lake on a sun-setting summer night. Both with two years of university remaining, we studied hard, worked hard and served hard on staff part time at church. Money in short supply but not lacking in the burning-with-love-for-each-other- department. Oh the waiting, it felt like we would never make it to that altar!
It was easy. The saying yes. The beginning of the journey. That uncharacteristically warm summer May afternoon with 427 people sitting watching. Its the staying in yes that isn’t the easy part. No one tells you that. Years without babies with hearts full of ministry life then the years with babies, one after another. The quaint little college apartment with organized everything gave way to a cute and crowded condo by the lake which gave way to the darling rambler where we would welcome our fifth baby blessing on our bedroom floor on a cold February evening.
There were scars by then. The kind you see, that tell of a body swollen beyond capacity time and again. And the kind you don’t see, the ones that tell of losses and disappointments that rend the heart all sorts of broken. There were all the months I spent sure that no other married ones who loved Jesus this much could possibly find life this hard. Whatever of “happily ever after”?
Just when it seemed the heart was plum full and how could I possibly learn to love more, deeper, softer….there was always more. Room for more. Growing, changing, forgiving, learning, CHOOSING. It was always that that was hardest for me. That it wasn’t always going to feel lovely and beautiful. It was going to be a falling apart mess sometimes and I would always have to choose. Choose to be steadfast. Choose to forgive. Choose to stay present. Choose to love extravagantly. All in the midst of a culture that says marriage isn’t forever and I should do what makes me feel good, despite the cost.
I booked a babysitter days ago, chose the nicest restaurant in our country town for us to share dinner and anticipated what two hours off alone together would be like. Life is full and loud and some face time is such a rare gift. Just five hours before our to-be anniversary dinner I heard these infamous words “I think I’m going to throw up mom!” And I dropped everything, ran to the kitchen and ushered her to the bathroom. I cancelled the sitter and texted the sad news of our dashed dinner plans. An hour later as Finn joked about “choking up” as he calls it, and playing with the bowls I had put out, he turned sheet white and lost his lunch all over the kitchen floor. The hubby texted back and offered to pick up dinner and I mopped up nastiness one batch after another.
He brought take out and we sat on the back deck so we could eat sans vomit-smell. Liberty kept us company and we mused about our state of affairs while eating out of a box with plastic forks.
We exchanged gifts, which was hysterical because we both shopped at Costco for each other, obviously because the boxes were identical. We agreed on many accounts but especially this…the sharing of the journey, in all its imperfection and mess, the walking together instead of alone, the waking up in the same bed with the same person day after day after day…it is profoundly precious. It is not overrated. It is nothing less than amazing in all its “ordinary-ness”.
As I took bites of food on the deck in between rounds of running in to empty full puke-bowls, I could only smile. This is it. This is real life. This is our life. An unexpected end to our fifteenth wedding anniversary to be sure. But then most of our life together has been unexpected and beyond what I’d dreamed of. I could not ask for a better someone to share it all with. Our walks may be slower and louder these days, but they are rich and brimming with love and laughter and all sorts of sweetness we are crazy thankful for.