Next week Joshua and I will celebrate our eighteenth wedding anniversary. That’s crazy! I don’t feel old enough to be married that long, and, honestly, the time has flown by. I’ll share a bit of our story.
I came to Kentucky for dog grooming school in the summer of 1990. There was a lot happening in my life, and I never actually became a dog groomer, but that is a story for another day. I will tell you that I was always on the prowl for the “love of my life”. I just knew that there would be bells ringing when I met him and it would be love at first sight. In fact, every time I met a handsome boy, I would pause to listen for the ringing of bells. However, at that point when I met Josh, I had given my heart to another love. Even though I had been a Christian since I was twelve years old, I was in a broken place and I was desperately seeking to know God more. Romance was the furthest thing from my mind.
It’s funny how Joshua and I met, because, as I said, I was a romantic person. I always knew it would be a romantic setting when I met “him”. The part that’s funny is that it was romantic, and I didn’t even realize it. There were no bells and I had no idea that I had just met the boy, who would become the man, that I would spend the rest of my life with.
It was September 1990. A group of us from University Christian Fellowship (UCF) were on a moonlight canoe trip. We were all floating down the water together. It was peaceful, with the splashing of water as the paddles struck, crickets chirping and the bright moon shining above us. occasionally the quiet was interrupted by squeals of laughter of friendly chatter from nearby boats. I was with my friend Laura, and we were slow rowers. Another boat started coming over to us. It was a boy with wispy blond hair and blue eyes, rowing an older lady. (I’ve always had a thing for boys with blond hair and blue eyes, but still, no bells rang!) We introduced ourselves. He was Josh. We made friendly conversation, and I was curious about him. I wondered why he had chosen to row an older lady around, instead of grouping up with the other young people. That was the extent of my curiosity. Strangely, I don’t remember a whole lot from that night, but meeting him is clear in my memory. As for rowing the lady, now I know that it’s just who he is. He loves people and seeks to help.
I went back to Pennsylvania for a few months before deciding to move permanently to Kentucky. Shortly after I moved here, into a house with another girl from UCF, three of the guys from UCF were out for a walk and stopped by to visit. One of them was Josh. The other two guys ran down the road for a minute and Josh and I were left sitting on the front porch.
From the very beginning, our conversations were always inquisitive. We would ask each other questions and have fairly deep chats. That day on the porch I realized that Josh and I were from two different worlds. He was a southern boy, through and through. he grew up in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood, with a mom and a dad. He was smart, well-educated and well-traveled. I was a yankee. I was raised by a single mom. We were poor. I had barely traveled outside of Pennsylvania. School was something I had to do, and I was by no means a scholar.
We also discovered that we had things in common. We both loved kids.We also both had hearts for kids with special needs. I had spent three years in highscool as a volunteer, working with handicapped children. One of my jobs while in school was taking care of a severely handicapped boy several evenings a week. He was a camp counselor, working with handicapped children. Right away that captured my attention. I could tell that behind this slightly cocky exterior, there was a big heart.
Less than a year after we met, We both committed to a summer long Christian discipleship program through the student organization and church that we were attending. (Christian Training School class of 91!) It was an amazing summer, full of growth in God, building lasting relationships and growing up.
I was a bit antagonistic towards Josh during the first few weeks of CTS. I was insecure and I had a chip on my shoulder. I saw myself as a street smart northern girl, and I wasn’t too fond of the preppy southern boy. I was mean to him, and I was extremely defensive. We even got in a shouting match after a meeting one night. (There have been several others since that night!)
However, something in my heart changed after we were all together in a room praying one night. He was praying out loud, and I was so touched by his love for God and his desire to serve God. I thought to myself, “I want to serve God with him, for the rest of my life.” The differences didn’t matter. I loved his heart. I wondered if he would ever be able to love me.
I went to an older friend and told her how I was feeling. She encouraged me to just wait and pray and see what would come of it. That’s what I did. I wasn’t always patient, and I don’t think my feelings for him were a secret, even though I tried to be discreet about them. This waiting went on for three years. We were great friends during that time, but I was anxiously waiting for him to realize that I was “the one”.
After three years of this, I decided that he was not interested. I was tired of the emotion that I spent waiting for him. I decided to just let it go. I had no idea that I could turn it off just like that, but I did.
Once that happened, our friendship became even stronger. He started showing up at my house to see if I wanted to go for a walk. He helped me frame tons of preschool artwork for an art show at the daycare where I worked. He would sometimes swing by my work to play with the little kids that I taught, or to drive me home. It seemed that he was always looking out for me. I was blessed by our deepening friendship, but had no romantic ideas whatsoever. It was honestly the furthest thing from my mind.
In the summer of 1994 a group of us went on a mission trip to Mexico. He was getting ready to start Medical school, so he was part of the medical team. He was also fluent in Spanish and did a lot of translating. I was part of the work team. I sanded iron fences, swept floors and tried to keep the children occupied. I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. or Mixteco, but I was expected to entertain a large amount of children. On our first trip to the mountains I gathered a large group of children. They were staring at me expectantly. I had no idea what to do with them! On a whim, I picked up a ball and started running. They all started running after me! We laughed and screamed and played made up games. The girls braided my hair and touched my white skin. The little boys flirted and tried to get me to chase them. I blew bubbles and passed out candy. It was one of the best days of my life! I was oblivious to anything else.
Joshua tells me that he and our pastor were standing on a balcony watching. Josh commented that it was amazing because I didn’t even speak their language. Our pastor said something like, “Yes she does. She speaks the language of love and they understand that.” Josh says that in that moment he knew that he loved me and wanted to marry me.
On that same trip I watched him interacting with people. He was so kind and genuine. This time I thought to myself, “I want to be a part of whatever he is a part of until I die.” I wasn’t thinking that it meant I had to marry him. I just knew that he was good man and I wanted to follow him.
The rest is pretty much history. It wasn’t hard to figure out that his feelings towards me had changed, and it wasn’t hard for me to open my heart to him again. We were gaga over each other and everyone knew it. Things were progressing quickly.
Things suddenly changed when Josh decided that we needed to take a “break”. He said we needed spend some time apart. I didn’t understand that at all.That was a difficult time for me, but now I am so glad that we had that time.
Josh needed that time to get past all of the emotion and prayerfully decide if he was ready for marriage. He didn’t want to destroy a precious friendship by rushing into something. He needed to be sure that once we started this thing, it would be to move towards marriage.
Here is a soapbox moment: Far too many people enter into a marriage because of how the other person makes them “feel”. The problem is that feelings change. You have to know who you are marrying, and sometimes feelings hinder truly getting to know someone. Also, far too many people enter into marriage lightly. I believe that marriage is a promise that you make to each other before God. That is a very serious matter! I am extremely thankful that my husband always has and always will value the covenant of marriage.
Anyway, back to the story: Once again, I was waiting for Josh and I wasn’t too happy about it. I spent lot of time in prayer and talking to a few trusted friends about the situation. One morning I woke up with a strong desire to spend the whole day with God. I lived in a house with several other girls and sometimes it was difficult to be alone. I went to a little room behind our garage and prayed and worshipped. I had a wonderful day and God met me there in that little room. I didn’t know if I was going to marry Josh or not, but I knew that God was my father, had a plan for my life and cared more about who I would marry than I ever could.
Once again, I moved on. I loved Jesus. He was my first love! I was no longer worried about what was going to happen between Josh and I. I still loved him and I hoped that he was the one, but I honestly put it in the Lord’s hands.
A few weeks after that back room encounter with God,in May of 1995, Josh showed up at my job and asked if he could drive me home. My first reaction was fear. No way was I going to put my heart out there again! I was done waiting for him to make up his mind, and I told him that. I wanted to know what his intentions were. He told me that he wanted to marry me. I still didn’t quite trust him, so the first place I made him take me was to a friend’s house. It was a friend who Josh had been talking through all of this with. I asked him if Josh was serious this time and he assured me that this time it was for real.
After a short courtship, we got engaged. On June 15, 1996 we were married, and we have been serving God together ever since.
I may be biased, but I think that we have an exceptional marriage. Our house has always been filled with laughter. We enjoy being together. After eighteen years, we still hold hands, snuggle on the couch and have long chats. We go on dates, we have coffee together, and we sit on the porch swing side by side. Even I am amazed that it never gets old!
We have had some hard times. Medical school and residency were hard! We have suffered losses and cried together. We’ve lost several babies, we’ve been through very high-risk pregnancies, adoptions, difficult parenting situations, job worries, financial difficulties and periods where living together was not fun. We are not perfect and we have both had issues to work though. It has caused strain on our marriage at times. I have had to forgive him for things, and he certainly has had to forgive me.
In spite of the hard times, We have had a wonderful life together. God has blessed us with five kids. We have the little farm that we always dreamed of. We are giving our life to good things and serving God together.
Somewhere in the midst of those hard times we have learned to turn to each other rather than away from each other. We have learned to be partners and work together. I love who we have become together and who our family is because of that. Yes, we still have to forgive each other. Yes, there are hard parts and stressful times. But at the end of the day, there is a sweetness and a preciousness that I never could have imagined.
I love my husband, He is sweet, kind and generous. He loves God. He loves me and our children. He loves people. He is a great man and a humble servant. He casts vision and he holds the line. He pushes himself and our family and the people he loves towards excellence. He sees the potential in people and he pushes them until they become who he knows they are meant to be. I love him more than ever and I am so thankful that I get to be the woman that he comes home to.
After being married for nearly eighteen years, I just want to say that saying yes to him was the second best decision that I ever made. (Saying yes to my Heavenly Father will always be the first!)I still want to serve God with him for the rest of my life. We’ve spent the last eighteen years working out all the kinks and learning to live and love together. The next eighteen years are going to be amazing!