Last year I felt inspired to write some poetry around the time of our anniversary. This is what I wrote and its still one of my favorite pieces. I think I could post this every year on June 7th and feel satisfied. But this year we’ve hit 10 years and I want to reflect a little more. Its in the writing of things that I figure out what I know.
The past 10 years have been a wild ride. Wild in that I wouldn’t have expected the course we’ve walked in ten million years. Truthfully, I don’t know what I would have plotted instead. I don’t think I’d thought that far ahead when we got married 10 years ago. I know if I had been asked I would not have guessed our course. Two out of state moves. A career path on my end that involved the lowest lows (bored out of my mind for three years straight) and the highest highs (leading an organization that built houses and opened a business). A doctorate and fellowship for Andy. The birth of our daughter. The unexpected loss of a pregnancy. Recently, a trip to the Bahamas. Turns out you can do a lot in ten years.
When I was ten years old I was in the fourth and fifth grade. I remember those years well. I loved my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Sabathier. She was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and had the syrupy sweet southern accent to prove it. She loved her students to pieces and didn’t so much as teach us as she swooned over how wonderful and brilliant we all were. We emerged none the worse for wear the following year as Mrs. Biondo took over our education as fifth graders. She decorated her desk with cows and took off her shoes during class and donned black and white cow slippers while she diagrammed sentences on the board. The cows did not disturb from her merciless expectations in reading and writing. She would pause in read alouds to ask us to define large words and made us memorize all of the prepositions in the english language. To this day I remember them all, in alphabetical order, and can say them in approximately 15 seconds or less thanks to her insistence that we compete on the matter. The world thanks you for this, Mrs Biondo…I think?
These were great years to be in school. I had my first little crush on a boy named Omar. We made sure to count the boys and girls to the back of the line so that we could sit next to each other in Friday morning church services. We would play jackpot at recess and he’d give me the ball 50% of the time when he caught it, making me feel special.
I remember some jarring times too though. One morning Mrs. Sabathier came in crying and asked us to quiet down. She explained that Mrs. Clarke, a first grade teacher at our school and the mom of one of my classmates, had lost her fight with breast cancer. The next year, both fifth grade classes attended a funeral service for the father of another girl in our class. He had died suddenly in an accident at work. Those were weird, hard days to absorb for fourth and fifth graders whose worst days in a given year revolved around petty recess shenanigans. Funerals seemed incongruent with the world we assumed we were being handed.
I’ve tried to write this piece on marriage several times and have abandoned it several times because it always has such a rough edge to it. I’m trying to write about my most beloved relationship here people, and I keep getting all dreary! Lest there be concern, Andy is still the funniest and funnest person I know. I admire him to the skies and I’m most certain he still admires me too as he tells me so on the regular! So, I keep thinking I’m not supposed to write this way and it should be coming out all dream-like and nauseating. Isn’t that the promise of the white dress and the tuxedo? Nauseating perfection, until death do us part?
If perfection’s the promise (I’m not sure that it is) than it certainly isn’t fulfilled in a hippy skippy manner (I am sure of that!). But I’ve decided I’m ultimately OK with that. Wearing a wedding dress and a tuxedo every day for ten years this side of heaven would be irritating, if nothing else. We’d also be incredibly overdressed when so much of life is taking out the trash and doing the laundry.
Maybe that’s where I’ve gotten hung up as I’ve tried to write this reflection. I look back on those 10 years of highs and lows that we’ve weathered together and realize that so much of it was just taking the next right step. Even when we found ourselves sitting in the mud. We’d get up each day and do chores. Discuss finances or weekend plans. Cook dinner. Which is not to say that it has all been drudgery. That’s not the case. Its just been different than I think I thought it would be on June 7, 2008.
That’s kind of life for you though, isn’t it? You memorize all the prepositions in the english language for class in the same week that you smile over your fourth grade crush giving you the ball at recess in the same month that you attend the funeral of a classmates mother in the same year you grow an inch taller. Life is so strange and weird and awkward isn’t it? Sometimes its also just really wonderful.
Some mornings, 10 years after you wore a white wedding dress and he wore a black tux, you wake up and realize that the good times and the tough times have really been God’s way of ushering you both, hand in hand, into the one great struggle of your lives. The struggle for a true and lasting joy. Not joy as in happy. Joy as defined so well by Kay Warren: “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of our life. The quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right. And the determined choice to [give glory to] God in all things.”
Today, I can look back on ten years and then look over at Andy to say this:
It has truly been a joy. Not because it has been easy. Not because we were always skipping through fields of wildflowers without a care in the world. It has been a joy because by some peculiar and amazing grace we keep coming back to that guiding line that we both sense and can never see to say that we’ll honor and acknowledge and obey what its calling us to. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Moment by moment. As long as we both shall live.
“In the cathedrals of New York and Rome,
There is a feeling that you should just go home,
and spend a lifetime finding out just where that is.”
from “Cathedrals,” by Jump Little Children
(our first dance)