Our lives are enriched and deepened by the cluster of memories that make us unique. As I approach my seventh anniversary with my husband this month, I am overtaken by all the memories we share. Our life together has been interesting, painful, beautiful and saturated with love. Welcome to our life together, in snapshots. Brad, Happy Anniversary, baby.
I remember when I first met you at church. You were handsome and funny, so I decided to avoid you because I had a boyfriend at the time. Within a week of “chance” encounters, I broke up with my boyfriend. The next day, I held your hand at the state fair.
I remember our first week apart. It was several months into our relationship and you traveled to Cambodia on a mission to bring clean drinking water to villages in need. When your family and I picked you up at the airport, you dropped your suitcase and jogged over to pick me up in a big bear hug. Days later, you handed me a journal you had been writing me every day while you were gone. You wanted it to be like I was with you while you traveled. This is one thing I love about you—your talent for creating community. You have always made me feel like you don’t enjoy an experience quite as much when it isn’t shared with someone you love.
I remember our engagement. I mentioned that I would love for friends and family to be there, so you planned a day at the lake with my family and college friends in Missouri. While at the lake, you were going to surprise me by taking me to a nearby dock at sunset to propose. I ended up with an allergy attack and, while red-faced and puffy-eyed, I tried to shuffle everyone towards their cars in late afternoon. You had to skip the sunset and the dock, and propose to sneezy, swollen woman, but it was still perfect because you were the one proposing. Four months later, we were married.
I remember spending two years in our tiny, one-bedroom apartment. There were miscommunications, trust building, and a ton of laughs. I remember waking us up in the middle of the night, making a bizarrely accurate alarm clock noise in my sleep. We were both confused, looking around frantically, trying to figure out where the noise was coming from, until we both realized it was coming from me. That might have been the only time we ever woke up at 2 a.m. cracking up uncontrollably. But, I do remember countless other nights in that apartment when we stayed up late, belly laughing at each other to the point of exhaustion.
We saved and saved our money until we could put a down payment on our first house, which ended up being located right around the corner from dear friends. We made an offer, called our friends, and they suggested we pray together over the potential new house. So, there all four of us were, camped-out across the street from our future house (probably looking a little shady), praying that God would bless our offer, but if it wasn’t His will, to close that proverbial door. We definitely feel God’s blessing in this home and the neighborhood that we prayed over.
The next year, we decided we would go on our last big vacation before starting a family. We went to Mexico in the summer of 2013 to an all-inclusive resort. We played volleyball, laid on beach beds, and ate an exorbitant amount of guacamole. There, in that beautiful location, looking at the ocean, we thought of our future family and how we wanted to pour into each other so we would be the best for our future kids.
I remember when you were diagnosed with a rare jaw tumor in January of 2014. I was in the middle of my Master’s program, working full-time, and trying to handle what was happening to you. I watched you consume a liquid diet for the next four months, in and out of surgeries, while still working a hectic job and doing an intensive bible class at church. Though there were many times in that period of time neither one of us had anything left to give to each other, my respect deepened for you and your quiet resilience.
I remember losing our first baby. We were overwhelmed when we got the positive pregnancy test, but then the news became a light in a very dark spring. You still had surgeries planned, and my health was starting to decline, but we felt the baby would be the blessing we didn’t know we needed. A week after we found out, we lost the baby, two days before my birthday.
I remember the following fall, when I had to stop working full-time due to constant, debilitating pain, you gently hugged me and recommended I see a counselor. It was then that I realized I was grieving, not just the loss of our first child, but the loss of a life I thought we would have. I started to doubt God’s goodness in the haze of years of constant, intense stress. The next few years, our view of and relationship with God reshaped and deepened, and included trusting Him when we didn’t quite understand His plan. In those times, God quietly comforted and provided. I love looking back at all of the times He has provided for us in ways we never would have expected.
I remember the three and a half years that feel like a blur of pain, surgeries and diagnoses. We put our heads down and did the dang thing. We laughed so we wouldn’t cry, and had to cater our dates and outings to our new bodies and limitations. Our bodies are filled with scars, but we were able to lean on each other in a way that brought a deeper intimacy than I ever thought I would experience.
I remember our cruise this past spring. I was still healing from my latest surgery and it was a risk to plan it. This trip ended up being so beautiful and wonderful, especially when placed in stark contrast to the previous three years we had endured. We swam, we ate too much, took a very sketchy cab ride in Honduras, made friends, and relaxed in the beauty of God’s creation.
Our relationship has changed and matured with the passing of time. We often still feel overwhelmed by the testimony we have been given, but we are learning to extend grace to ourselves and each other. Anything we go through will be worthwhile because of a prayer you wrote to me several years ago that is now hanging on our bedroom wall:
“I pray that we don’t become complacent in our faith, but strive to become more like Christ as we grow old together. I pray that at the end of our lives we have fought the good fight, we have finished the race, and we have kept the faith. I pray that we will stand, hands clasped, in front of Christ in Heaven and hear Him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’”