What do you give the man that has everything and who has given you the last 25 years of his life?
I’ve worked for days writing and rewriting this piece for my “Beloved.” Yes, I still call you that, and I’ve even heard one of our neighbors mock me for it. I don’t care. The guy who has toughed it out with me these past 2 1/2 decades has more than earned that title in my life.
At any rate, this has been one of the most difficult pieces I have ever fashioned. Our life together has been more than complicated. It has looked nothing like we imagined when we sailed away in that hot air balloon and said, “I do.”
I was a little retail finance diva and you a small town business owner when we first fell in love. That was the best summer of my life… EVER. Two years later, we were married. I’m sure that you, like I, thought we had nowhere to go but up. After all, aren’t you poorest and most challenged when you are first starting out together in life?
I don’t know where we thought we were headed, but it sure wasn’t where we ended up! Who would have thought we would lose every bit of savings we had worked so hard for, work 12 jobs between us over the course of 25 years, and face the very real possibility of never retiring together? We were naive, to say the least. Getting robbed blind by one of our most trusted employees, miscarriage, infertility, 3 kids with expensive chronic illnesses, me dealing with 4 knee surgeries in 2 years time… None of that was ever on our radar when we first started out.
Still, here we are, still together after 25 years.
Why? What held us 2 goofy kids in a hot air balloon together when life was anything but an easy, floating fairytale?
25 Reasons Why
As my heartfelt, devoted 25th anniversary gift to you, Steve, here are 25 reasons I have remained through it all. I could come up with many, many more, but I thought this was a good and sometimes-amusing start:
25. You taught me to take chances. – When I met you, I was instantly struck by how friendly you were to strangers, unafraid to talk to anyone. Uninhibited. That is the word I would’ve used to describe you, like a fresh breath of air. In addition, before meeting you, I had only had one skiing experience and it was miserable. You taught me to water ski, to cross-country ski, and you introduced me to the American Birkebeiner Ski Race. Such fun! Trying things outside my comfort zone and enjoying each day just became a new habit after you moved into my life.
24. You shared my commitment to hard work. – Having both grown up in families with fathers who were tireless entrepreneurs, you and I have always shared a fierce passion for solid work ethic. We both believed that if you apply yourself and do your very best, you will do well in life — even if that wasn’t always true. That commitment to hard work transferred into the hard work of marriage as well. We both had broken marriages before, and we shared a determination not to let it happen to us again. We held on with a shared fierceness that few couples know. That commitment to hard work was something we were dedicated to imparting to our children as well. I LOVE that we share this!
23. You turned me into a Conservative thinker. – While you never demeaned my empathetic, compassionate liberalism, you challenged me to think of how my ideas could be adequately funded. You punched holes in my logic, and it made me a far better critical thinker overall. My brain was opened up to a much bigger world and perspective.
22. You showed me that a good friendship is worth hanging onto for life. – Watching your commitment to friends you hold dear has been inspirational. If one of your buddies is in a pickle, you never hesitate to be there for them. Those you continue to connect with have your loyalty through and through. I love watching you love your friends.
21. You kindled my love and knowledge of fire. – Get it? Kindled? (Smirk) You taught me how to build a decent fire. How could you not be the best instructor? Your face beamed with pride when your brother called you a “pyromaniac.” I have had to keep you from throwing some pretty questionable items into the flames over the years. But you created countless beautiful blazes for me to enjoy with you.
20. You rekindled my love for dogs. – Sure, your brother jokingly asked me if I wanted to help him turn your old dog, Riley, into a boat anchor decades ago. But I grew to love that mutt because YOU loved him. We’re now on our fourth canine companion together. I guess that dogs just became a part of our family DNA over the years.
19. You learned to love cats. – I love cuddly kittens. “But I’m allergic to cats!” you protested. “You’ll get shots,” I retorted. “But my dad will never come visit again. He hates cats.” Really? That was lame. Nevertheless, you’ve grown to love the four feline friends that have destroyed our house and warmed our laps over the past 25 years.
18. You were willing to give me as much space as you wanted. – Yes, you have been a free-spirited play baby over the years. How long did it take us to get down the habit of you checking in with me before you made plans? Even so, you were willing to let me have my own free time over the years as well. I count it as nothing short of miraculous that you kept our children alive while I traveled for small sanity breaks, speaking engagements, and legislative advocacy.
17. You couldn’t pair socks if your life depended on it. – Okay, I might be exaggerating just a bit, but I know you well enough to realize how much you loathe this task. I am just so very grateful when you help with a load of laundry. I don’t mind pairing socks. Besides, it will make you appreciate me more.
16. You were willing to explore your faith with me. – Both of us grew up in a similar religious tradition. We thought we were “good Christians” because we attended church once a month after we were married. A crossroads of faith confronted us when we had a miscarriage and the pastor prayed for “this life to be.” We knew our lost son was a life, a person, and we knew that we needed a different spiritual direction. I became a devoted Christian in 1995 and you weren’t far behind. What a tremendous gift that God has become the glue that truly held us together through every adversity. We are blessed! Not every couple shares that mutual faith relationship.
15. You never abandoned me when we went through miscarriage and infertility treatment. – Miscarriage seemed to mark the-beginning-of-the-end with my first marriage. When I had a subsequent miscarriage 3 years after we got hitched, you never blamed me. One of our roughest patches came when we later faced infertility treatment, but you never wavered in your commitment to me and to building a family together.
14. You never condemned me for passing on the hemophilia gene to 2 of our 3 kids. – There have been people close to us who blamed me for passing on this life-changing genetic disorder, but you never did. Instead, you scolded me for blaming myself and encouraged me as we moved forward with our “new normal.” I know you were just as scared as I was, but you have leaned into this life with hemophilia right along with me. How many thousands of IV infusions have we both administered over the past 17 years? You never shied away from that intense responsibility, and I’m beyond grateful for it.
13. You affirmed to me that honesty is a “hill to die on.” – Truthfully, I have had my heart broken by lies that came between us over the years. I think that made me more committed to teaching our children the virtue of honesty. It also made me be more intentional about being truthful with you because I knew the pain and humiliation of dishonesty. I pray that we have become more transparent with each other throughout our marriage.
12. You learned to roll your eyes and shake your head at your family. – Suffice it to say that you grew to see with fearless truth those who, at one time, could do no wrong in your eyes. Life got so much better when you could finally accept that your family wasn’t perfect and laugh a little.
11. You helped me to laugh and stay strong in dealing with my family. – Unlike you, I was painfully aware how imperfect my family was. You helped me get through some incredibly tough situations with grit and humor. Without you, I think it would have completely flattened me. No one has the capacity to hurt quite like someone from our own family of origin. You helped me remember that, no matter what, YOU were my family and that’s all I needed.
10. You believed in me and cheered me on when I studied for my licenses to become an investment broker. – When I was working full-time and studying into the wee hours every night, you didn’t complain. You hired me a cleaning lady! You encouraged me with reaching my goal and the building of my business. Despite having to watch me spend time with some pretty unsavory characters in the financial world, you never left my side.
9. You have been my greatest fan and encourager as a writer. – Honestly, the only reason I began writing publicly 8 years ago was because you believed in me. “Wow! You’re a really good writer.” I will treasure that compliment from you as long as I live. YOU are my favorite editor and you are the audience-of-one for whom I write.
8. You have never complained about my grueling, thankless job in ministry. – You were by my side nearly 15 years ago when God called me into ministry. It has included long hours, lots of sacrifice for others, and painfully low pay. Never once have you grumbled about it. You’ve listened to hours of my discouragement and frustrations with the work, always being my support along the way.
7. You grew to love babies after holding, changing, feeding, and loving 3 of your own. – Although I doubt anyone looked as awkward as you did holding a baby prior to becoming a parent, you are now a baby stalker. It always makes me smile to see you flirting with babies and asking to hold them. What a riot!
6. You have been a good father. – Face it. None of us is the perfect parent. Yet, with all of your imperfections, your children know that you love them, that you’re proud of them, and that you expect them to always do their best. They have had your steadfast love and attention. You’ve had a good sense of when to give them a little space during the times they need to withdraw. I only need to look at how deeply devoted those 3 kids are to you to see what an incredible job you’ve done.
5. You loved me even when I have been at my worst. – Even when I haven’t been able to stand myself, you stood by my side. You stuck with me regardless of whether it was physical or emotional challenges. When life has pushed me down, you have always extended a hand to lift me back up.
4. You are dutiful. – You have always just kept doing what needed to be done even when I couldn’t. My 4 knee surgeries in 2 years, my migraine, my arthritis, and my chronic depression have all put you to the test. Yet, you just keep on keepin’ on faithfully. Kids need to be picked up? Fine. The house isn’t neat as a pin? Not a problem to you. Dishes piling up because I’m overwhelmed or incapacitated? You never balked at rolling up your sleeves.
3. You never walked away and wouldn’t let me leave, though we each had a thousand reasons why we should. – We have disagreed, fought, been through counseling, fought some more, and continually had brutal waves of life crashing into us. People have tried to come between us. I tried to kick you out. You wouldn’t leave. I wanted to walk away. You were there when I calmed down and came back. Our marriage must have felt like riding a mechanical bull for you over the years!
2. You taught me humility. – Every day of our married life has been a new lesson in apologizing, self-denial, lovingly deferring to your preferences, or just keeping my mouth shut. In learning to humble myself, I have learned to grow in love, grace, and godliness. I think you have too.
1. You taught me to love like Jesus. – Over the past 25 years we have both learned that marriage wasn’t meant to make us happy, it was meant to make us holy. Self-sacrifice, dying to our own desires or agenda daily, loving as a decision rather than a feeling has conformed each of us more and more into the likeness of Christ. Marriage has taught us lessons we couldn’t have learned any other way.
At the 25 year mark, I feel like we, together, are victorious. Life has beaten the daylights out of us to the point where we have forgotten how to dream. But we share a journey that no one else knows like we two. We have fought for every inch of it. And I pray that God would bless us with many more years ahead. I realize the likelihood of it being 25 more is small given how much life has worn us down, but whatever the time, I am so grateful for each day of it with you.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, MY LOVE!