Tuesday, May 27, 2014

14 Years

Tomorrow we celebrate 14 years of marriage.  We won't see each other because Jeremy is out of town for work.  But it's okay, because we got to steal a date on Sunday night in Palm Springs where Jeremy's parents watched the kids at the hotel and I went out with chlorine still in my hair.

Fourteen years makes me comfortable, fourteen years makes me feel beautiful, fourteen years makes me feel confident, fourteen years makes me feel tired (ha!), fourteen years makes years one through ten seem so far away and distant--who were those people who thought they knew so much?

At dinner, we (well, mostly me) strained to remember where we were at--geographically and emotionally/spiritually--during each of the last thirteen anniversaries.  We had first made a goal to be in a different city for each anniversary so that we could mark them better in time, but life and logistics and impending births of babies take away the urgency of such silly ideas.  I wish we had stuck to it, though (even if it meant just driving to Williams or Winslow for the heck of it).  I like marking time.  I like looking back and remembering feelings and feeling thankful for growth.

Fourteen years ago, I was excited.  Fourteen years ago, I was clueless.  I was captivated by this man who loved God and me so much.  Fourteen years ago I was a little afraid of what it all meant, but I was too intrigued by the adventure to turn back.  I was kind of like Bilbo Baggins...but that is not a very lovely visual image as I talk about my wedding day.  I was marrying my best friend who I thought was immensely handsome and surprisingly thoughtful.  And a little mysterious...he was so different than me.  He longed and yearned for something different, something more.  Like he could hear the beat of a distant drumming, calling him onward and upward.

Our first year of marriage was wonderful and difficult, all rolled up into an 800 square foot apartment with a tiny backyard close to the railroad tracks and close to the beach.  He never tired of spending time with me, and yet he was also willing to bring up my shortcomings.  I struggled so much that first year, falling down so many times...even running away one night (to where?  Seriously, I was so ridiculous.  I returned barefoot and sorry and slightly sheepish).  I didn't like not being the perfect wife and being told that my teaching bag dropped in the middle of the doorway was not "becoming."  That was the word he often used.  And though it made me cringe, I respected him for it.  I needed to be brought down from my self-centered pedestal.  To be reminded that I was a sinner just like the rest of us; that my actions, no matter how small, mattered.  This man I married had a maddeningly high value on integrity and respect.  And yet he was and always is gentle, desiring the best for me.  Always seeing the big picture.

Through the years--the faith-building second year of raising support to go to Kazakhstan, the third and fourth years of traveling to places I never dreamed I'd go, the fifth year of uncertainty and pain (and a baby!), the sixth through ninth years of transitions and home-building, the tenth and eleventh with new dreams and the sickness and health parts, the goodbyes and what's nexts of the twelfth year, unanswered questions of the thirteenth, until today--God has been faithful to us, pushing us together when circumstances would threaten to pull us apart.  He has given us shared passions, purpose, unity, great memories, good friends, and parents who honor their commitments.  Our personalities are still very different, but our hearts and minds have become so similar...more and more, the same things matter to both of us--or at least we can truly respect the needs and interests of the other instead of becoming so impatient.  We still have a long way to go as we seek to love each other first, but we have so much hope when we look at the ever-longer road stretching behind us.  In year 14, with all my faults on the table, with all the wrinkles by my eyes and odd bulges due to babies and baked goods, Jeremy loves me more!  He thinks I am beautiful and I know he means it, and he wants to be with me and doesn't tire of listening to my heart.  I am a blessed woman and I know that I am the perfect wife for him, even though I am not perfect.  Nor is he, and I wouldn't change my mind 14 years ago about choosing to go with him.

This last year, it has seemed that the purposes and plans of this husband of mine have been frustrated, doubted, misunderstood, and downright thwarted.  And yet, he never loses sight of the goal and the One he is eager to please.  And little undeserving me has been blessed recently to feel encouraged and useful in ministry and speaking truth to others.  If ever I receive a compliment, I find myself thinking "I would never be able to do this or serve in that way or understand that truth if it weren't for Jeremy."  Today, I got a phone call from an appreciative MOPS mom who gave me some tender and specific compliments about how God had used me in her life.  Then she added, "I have never even met your husband and yet I respect him and admire what you as a couple are doing with your lives because I can tell that God is doing something through you and him."  Such a simple compliment, and yet it meant so much to me...as if God was speaking and reminding me that he's not yet done with us and with our story...and I can laugh at the days to come!

So here's to facing as many more years as He gives us together, because two are better than one and they have a good return for their labor.  And if you are wondering how I am able to speak so highly of my husband, I want to encourage you to pray for God to help you love whoever you need to love in your life.  And then I want you to watch this video.  The story of this couple somehow got into my heart and softened hard, dark places that I didn't even know were there--places where I withheld love from Jeremy.  The newer, bigger, softer love I feel for him could only come from the Author of love himself, and this video shows what that Love is about.  (you've probably already seen it because it's totally made the rounds on Facebook, but watch it anyway :))