Saturday, June 8, 2013

Eleven years

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NIV)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
So a married couple’s eleventh anniversary is not as, for lack of a better word, exciting as the milestone tenth. But it’s no less worth celebrating, and this day always manages to put me in something of a celebratory mood.

Last year I looked back ten years to the actual wedding day, but today I hit the rewind button ten years to our first anniversary. We spent the weekend at my parents’ house because my brother and sister were graduating from high school. Some extended family was in town for that event as well, so it was a treat to get to mark the day with them. With Kristie’s 23rd birthday just a few days earlier, my sister decided it would be in good form to order a cake wishing all who feasted on it a “Happy Gradubirthdaversary.” And it was delicious.

Shortly before our first anniversary in 2003.
In that first year of marriage, we moved twice. Once from our rental home in Independence, Iowa, to our rental home in Fulton, Ill., and eight months after that across the river to Clinton, Iowa, and our first actual home. We bought a car for Kristie. I left one job and started another, Kristie completed her first year of teaching. She was involved with a handbell choir at church, we’d taken up with the local municipal band and gotten a few paid gigs with the Clinton Symphony Orchestra.

By our second anniversary, we were the proud parents of a six-week-old boy. Kristie was ready to take on a shift at school, leaving behind general music for kindergarten and first grades to take on the responsibilities of the high school band. By our third anniversary in 2005, she was ready to walk away from full-time teaching. I’m moved from just reporting to being an editor, as well as writing columns and editorials.

When we had our fourth anniversary in 2006, Kristie was getting back into a part-time music instruction position and also had a clerical job. We were shopping for bigger houses and seriously considering our long-term plans. I don’t think on that day we had any idea that a year later we’d have moved back to Illinois, though decidedly not the north suburbs, nor did we have a clue we’d welcome another son before the sixth anniversary.

By year seven, in 2009, we’d moved again, this time to our current home. Full-time newspaper work was in the rear-view mirror. I spent the first summer up here taking occasional work trips to places such as Canada and England, as well as scenic Muskegon, Mich. And when it came time to mark our eighth anniversary in 2010, we were a few weeks away from celebrating Kristie’s sister’s wedding. We also honored Kristie’s 30th birthday and were getting ready to tell relatives our family would be growing again.

So here we are, eleven years in. The cars we started with are long gone, and we can only go somewhere as a family if we use the minivan. The cats we adopted during our engagement had to find a new home. We ourselves had to find several new homes, though the stability of being in this domicile since March 2009 has proven quite beneficial. We’re again awaiting a family expansion, though it promises to be the last.

These first eleven years have been such an exciting period of growth and change as we welcome our children, but surely we are far different people than the couple who said, “I do,” that sunny June Saturday afternoon. We have become better friends, stronger partners, veteran parents and, near as I can tell, less two distinct parts than one combined whole. I say this not to mourn the loss of individuality — we both are our own person, after all — but rather to celebrate the blessing of being able to spend every day with a person I love so deeply there seems to be no alternative.

Look, lots of people love their partners very, very much. This is a good thing. I have never claimed our relationship is any better or stronger or more perfect than anyone else’s. Goodness knows it can require work to keep getting better. But what ours does seem to be is just the right fit for us. Whatever we have going on seems to work, and that’s all I’d wish for anyone: to find someone you can talk to about anything and go from there.

I don’t start out each day with a hug from my wife, usually my two-year-old is busy squeezing me as hard as his little arms can manage. We don’t always go to sleep at the same time, because the dishes don’t wash themselves any more than the laundry folds on its own. There are few grand romantic gestures. But I always do my best to let her know how much I need her, how much I appreciate everything she’s done and will continue to do for us and our kids. And that appreciation and respect is mutual.

We not only know we’re in this together, but we know “this” was a joint decision, a path we chose to walk, hand in hand, all the days of our life. That’s why sometimes eleven years feels like the blink of an eye, but it also seems like a hefty investment in a promising future. Here’s to seeing what tomorrow brings, and to welcoming all those tomorrows together.

A prayer for June 8:

Lord, thank you for the blessings of this marriage. And not only that, but thank you also for your continued daily presence in our family. I am grateful for a church family to help nurture our faith and join in the raising of our children. I am moved by the forgiveness you have for me and how it helps teach me to be more gracious to the people I hold dear. As I strive to reach my potential as a husband and father, I know I am striving first to live a life worthy of you. Lead me in your ways. Amen.

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