I got married today! 13 years ago, today, that is.

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Among a crowd of friends, church members, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings, I declared that I would marry this man and stick with him forever. “Before God and all these witnesses…” Little did I know how much I would need God and all those witnesses to stay married.

There is a reason that most love stories end at the wedding, or at the “they finally got together” point. I waited and looked for a long time (well not really, I was only 24 when I married) — but it felt like a long time waiting and looking for my perfect match, who inspired me do bold and silly things and trust much sooner than it seems I ought to have trusted, and who still makes me laugh even though his jokes are so ridiculous! Who always knows how to encourage me and is a perfect counterbalance to my deficiencies and hesitations. I still think he is so very handsome and I had no idea how much I would love seeing him as a father. I didn’t know I would still look at him and be amazed by who he is, and his gifts, all these years later. I am so very grateful that God brought him to me, and me to him, and that we are still together these 13 years later.

But there is a reason that many love stories end at the wedding. Because the happily ever after is hard won. Why do we marry in the midst of our community? I think it’s not just because we want to throw a big party (though that part is really fun too), but I think it is because it takes a good community to support a marriage.

Sure, the first year or two were easy. We were “in love” and had good jobs and a teeny tiny apartment to cuddle in, but it was so charming to have a place of our own and be able to have friends over and just be together. But somewhere along the way you buy a house, and there is a financial crisis, and a lost job, and kids, and friends move away, and a short sale on the house, and you move across the country, and at some point you wonder “Who am I really? Who is this person I married? Why do we hurt each other so much? Why doesn’t he do things the way I do? Why doesn’t she agree with me on that? Why won’t he tell the truth? Why doesn’t she consider my feelings more before speaking? I can’t really talk about what is bothering me the most…” Somewhere along the way, in the midst of the closest personal relationship, with the one you love more than anything, the one with whom you are “one flesh” there is heartbreak and isolation and argument and brokenness. This is the way all relationships go. Because we are all broken and imperfect people, and we can’t expect our relationships to be perfect.

Thank God we have God and each other. Not just me and my husband, but me and God and my husband, and all those witnesses – those church members and friends and cousins and parents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles – because it takes a good community to support a good marriage.

So right now, I want to say “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY” to my dear, fabulous, wonderful husband, whom I love more than I could ever say or show. I never ever ever ever ever ever want to be without you. Thank you for being YOU, and letting me be ME, and for loving me despite all my faults and failures.

I want to say “Happy Anniversary” to God — to my dear fabulous God, who was my husband before my husband was. Thank you for showing me what love is, and helping me to choose love and unity over self and fear and pride. We wouldn’t have made it this far without you, God!

I want to say “Happy Anniversary” to all our friends from college and our church in California where we were married, all those who came to the wedding and danced with us and decorated the car and made the day so memorable. Thanks for cheering us on and being there at the “starting line” to support us and share joy with us and give us great words of encouragement and gifts to get us started in our married life. You are forever a part of “us” and I thank you!

I want to say “Happy Anniversary” to all the friends and church community who have joined us along the way. Thanks to all the other parents out there who have encouraged us and helped us along as we’ve learned to be parents. Who joined us in both the “this is really hard” and the “this is really beautiful and magical” moments of parenthood. Thanks to our Circle in Eugene… truly, you guys are amazing and thanks for sharing life in such a real way. Thanks to all my single friends who’ve journeyed with me. I talked to a single friend in another state recently, about how hard it is to make friends when most people our age are married with kids, because you don’t always get invited to the parties with the other families. So I just want to say, thanks to all my single ladies who’ve hung out with me even though I’m a boring old mom and I can’t carry on a phone conversation without being interrupted by the kids, and even though the only place I can hang out is at the zoo and the children’s museum (with kids in tow), and though I probably don’t call you and invite you enough, I love you, and you are an important part of my community, too. Thanks for being my friends and cheering me on. To my divorced friends, I love you so much too! I know how hard it is, and I am sorry it didn’t work out as you dreamed. I wish you didn’t have to feel that heartbreak. But I am proud of you for carrying on, for living bravely whatever you face. I admire you, too. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a single parent, and I hope I can be part of your supportive community when you need it, even if I can’t fully anticipate or grasp what you need to feel supported.

And finally, I want to say “Happy Anniversary” to our families. Thanks for being there for us, in the bright and beautiful moments and in the difficult and tear-filled ones. Truly, I am so grateful to both our sets of parents. My and my husbands parents have been married about 85 years collectively. Wow! I am so very grateful that family gatherings on both sides of our families are joyful occasions, and not ones we dread. I know not everyone has that, and I am so very thankful that we do. Thank you, family, for helping us get this far. You’re amazing!

Thanks, everyone, who has been part of my life — you have supported me and my marriage — whether you meant to or not. Would I be here without you? I don’t know. But I am glad that I am. Lucky 13 years married. Happy Anniversary to us!

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