Making it happen, for 28 years and counting, Revisit

This weekend we will celebrate 29 years of marriage, so I thought I’d recycle this post from last year to remind myself of how blessed we are to be together in His hand.

Yesterday, when a friend heard that today was our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary, she said, “Sometime we’ll have to talk about how you made that happen…”

Yeah, so, that’s not exactly how I would characterize the last three decades.

I didn’t make anything happen.  What I’ve made are numerous mistakes, countless swift judgments, and repeated poor choices. I started off strong — making the assumption that I knew how to be the best wife and mother ever, and I’ve spent the last twenty-eight years learning humility. I’m not an expert at communicating, loving, being patient, or putting someone else first. The fact that we’re celebrating twenty-eight years of marriage is not a reflection of our success, but a testimony to the grace and steadfastness of God.

We got married in our mid-twenties both of us having been touched by divorce. We had little in our savings, and I was still paying off student debt. During the first year, we lived at three different addresses  — moving once when my job location changed and again when our son moved across the state. We changed jobs, too! My husband left teaching to be a full-time graduate student, and I switched from being a classroom teacher to a resource room teacher to a teacher in a residential school all before our first anniversary!

The stress of that first year alone might have done us in, but we were starry-eyed and convinced that we had won the lottery, and we were going to have the best life ever, even if we did have moments where insecurities led to worry that lead to yelling or tears or silence.

Because we did (and do) have those.

I remember one time, it had to be in the first month (or even week) of our marriage. Who even knew what started the squabble, but there we were in the kitchen, standing like two giant X’s, arms and legs splayed, chests out, voices raised, fingers pointing, spouting the kind of words we had never said toward one another before. It was terrifying. Ours was to be the perfect marriage — how could this happen? Doors were slammed; we fell to silence. And then we began to learn how to repair.

Undaunted, on the heels of that first year, before John had even finished his counseling degree and secured a salaried position, we decided that we’d like to start our family. Before our second anniversary, we’d moved again, he’d begun an internship, and we were expecting a baby!

Shortly after our third anniversary, he was settled into a position on a church staff, we had purchased our first home, and we were expecting another baby!

By our fifth anniversary, another was on the way!

It was the season of babies. We were elbow deep in diapers, blankies, and sippy cups. My husband worked long hours while I navigated days of feeding, reading, playing, and rocking. It was such a rich time what with all the cooing and snuggling, but the pure physicality of it all was exhausting. I was daily relieved when John joined me in the second-shift — the bathing, rough-housing, and putting to bed. We had established a partnership — he picked up where I left off and vice versa, but it wasn’t all hearts and flowers. Sometimes, utterly exhausted, I glared at him for arriving home five minutes late or for forgetting to pick up milk on the way home. Often, when he saw me hanging on by a frazzled thread, he pushed me out the door to catch a breath, take a break, or sit in silence. He’s always been quick to care for me — to see my needs often before I know I have them.

Throughout the years, we’ve shifted roles many times as we navigated five more moves, two more graduate degrees, various stages of parenting, and numerous professional positions. Recently, we’ve found the most cherished roles of our lives as Oma and Opa to our two precious granddaughters!

Photo Credit: Erin Rathje

We’ve walked many roads together. We’ve attended weddings; we’ve been eye-witnesses to divorce. We’ve visited hospitals to welcome new born babies; we’ve been in the room for the last breath of life. We’ve sat in conference rooms and court rooms, in churches and synagogues. We’ve traveled to Austin, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. We’ve even been to Canada, Africa, Israel, and Haiti! We’ve heard the best news and the worst news — all of this,  together.

After twenty-eight years we’re still happy to sit across the table with one another and talk for hours or to share the couch as we watch a whole Netflix series in a weekend.  We can power clean our little house together in a just over an hour or spend an entire day organizing one storage closet. We are comfortable talking and laughing while surrounded by friends and coworkers or simply drinking tea on our patio in the quiet of the morning, each reading our own book and saying absolutely nothing.

How did we make that happen? How did we live through more than 10,000 days of groceries and schedules and arguments and chaos and laundry and car repairs and taxes and track meets and homework and work functions and insurance claims and health challenges and road trips and still want to spend the next twenty-eight years together?

We didn’t make that happen. None of our choices have sustained us for twenty-eight years. Except maybe one,. We decided, way back in 1989, that if we got married, we would stay married. We would make our marriage vows to God, and He, we trusted, would make it happen. Though we were young and ill-equipped, we knew already that if we were going to have a life-long marriage, God would have to carry us in the palm of His hand.

And He has.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4

Adding up twenty-five years

On Tuesday of this week, my husband and I celebrated twenty-five years of marriage.  I have spent more than half of my life with this man!  Twenty-five years!  When I was only twenty-four, I had no idea how things would add up over the years

Eleven addresses — that’s right, we’ve lived in Ferndale, Auburn Hills, Coldwater, Jackson, and Ann Arbor, Michigan and in St. Louis, Missouri.  In two of those places we’ve had more than one address! We’ve lived in spaces from 800 square feet to over 2000 square feet.  We have moved eleven times, folks — and we’re still married!

Five kids — ok, I got one with the marriage, but we’ve added three by birth and one by marriage in the last twenty-five years.  Best of all, we’ve added a granddaughter! (We refuse to count all the diapers that these children required or all of the hours spent tending to sick ones!)

Two pets — our dearly departed Mikey, and our current cuddler, Chester.

Three graduate degrees — one for me, two for him!  We won’t mention all the dollars we have spent on education, we’ll let you imagine that on your own!

So many vehicles — from the tiny little Ford Festiva that we dubbed the ‘wind-up car’ to the GMC Safari that could carry all of us and all of our stuff to our current cute little Suze Cruze.

Thousands and thousands of miles we have driven from Michigan to New Jersey to New York to Niagara to Georgia to Colorado to Minnesota to Missouri to Tennessee to Texas and back to Michigan again.

One mission trip to Haiti and one mission in St. Louis.

Five home congregations, but so many more that we’ve visited!

So many friends!

So many positions — teaching, and preaching, and counseling, and tutoring, and that one summer when I did the Census! (Oh, and let’s not forget all the times we have been summoned for jury duty!)

Too many speeding tickets (mostly me) and too many parking citations (also me).

We’ve run hundreds of miles together, and now we’re walking even more. We’ve eaten tons of food together, and drank our share of beer, wine, coffee, and tea. We’ve had So. Much. Popcorn. But, wait, that’s all me.

We’ve disagreed.  We’ve argued.  We’ve irritated one another.  We’ve hurt one another and forgiven one another.

We’ve had rough days, rough weeks, and even a few rough years.  Most couples do.

But we’ve also had great days, great weeks, and even a few excellent years. Some couples do.

We’ve worked too hard, moved too fast, and forgotten to cherish the little things, but, in our older age, we are learning to work smarter, move slower, and notice the stuff that matters the most.

Just this year, we have started a tradition that we call ‘walkabout’.  We take the bus downtown with no intended agenda, no time constraints, and no responsibility.  We walk about for hours checking out people, places, and things.  We drink excellent coffee or tea, we eat snacks and and sometimes a meal, we usually have a glass of wine, then we take the bus home.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s fabulous.  It’s time together celebrating the fact that we still like to spend time together, still like to explore together, and still have fun together. That, my friends, can’t be measured or counted.  It can only be treasured.

We ain’t perfect. That’s sure.  But we have been incredibly blessed.  Here’s to twenty-five more.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.