Sunday, August 3, 2014

Forty Years Together

    We met on a beach in Northwest Florida. I had not planned on coming to the picnic to hang with a group of boys from MBA and Vanderbilt, but my mother insisted since the host family were long-standing friends of ours and I had grown up with their sons whom I counted among my close friends. So I went reluctantly and with some fairly obvious defiance. Even though I would be an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt, I was all too determined not to fit within the boundaries of what was considered the norm for the TVC (Typical Vanderbilt Coed). Hence I wore no make-up, my hair was long and flowing free and I was clad the way all Florida girls were in my day, especially girls who were lifeguards, hippies, and wanna-be-surfers. I felt totally cool and totally justified. I was only going because my mother insisted. And when she INSISTED in her strongest Momma voice, I usually complied, albeit grudgingly. I wasn't interested in the boys from Vanderbilt or the boys from MBA. Truth be told, I was already convinced I had the world by the tail. Ahhh, the naivete and brazen foolishness of youth.

     I had no idea that this was a day that would totally change my life.

     A mere three weeks later the phone in my dormitory rang. It was one of the boys from the picnic asking me out for my first real college date. That phone call took place forty-two years ago and the guy on the other end was the man I would marry. It was love at first sight. As strange as it may sound, I even told my roommate and the other girls that I had found the man that I would marry. That pronouncement (after my first college date and first date with him) was greeted with gales of laughter.

     We celebrate forty years of marriage tomorrow. It's been the journey of a lifetime and one I would not and could not have made it through with anyone else. It has not always been a bed of roses, but there was and is a core of faith-based commitment that binds us to one another in ways that defy description. He is the love of my life and the father of our four children. Believe it or not, he is getting better with age! I both like and love him more now than I ever have before, and am so very thankful that we persevered through the years with three children under the age of four along with the surprise "gift" of a fourth. He teases me mercilessly, loves to plan surprises and is the more romantic of the two of us. He is also fun, adventurous and concert-crazy. There have been good times and bad times, times when I was so mad I could have called it quits (but never allowed myself to really entertain that thought, even though I was furious or wounded) lots of laughter and lots of tears (on my part, anyway). There have been times when I felt lonely and alone and times when I felt as if my heart would burst with joy and that there was no one else on earth who understood me as he did (and does). There have been arguments galore and lots of "kiss and make-up." There have been sicknesses, illnesses, and scary times when I feared I would lose him. He has nursed me through three joint replacements and migraines too many to count. He has been both the rock on which I lean and the splinter that rubs in my foot. He's been my sorrow and my joy as have I to him. We have made lots of mistakes. Mistakes with each other and mistakes with our kids. What has bound us together has not only been the love, for if we are honest, that has failed us at times....but it has been the faith. Both of us believe that our marriage is sacred to God, even if we have not always lived each day as if it were sacred to us. Forty years ago, we made vows to one another, and most importantly, we made a vow to God. When we have been fickle, frail, and fragile, God has always, always, always been faithful. He is literally our saving grace. I count God as the force that has bound and kept us together through the ups and the downs that comprise a marriage.

    In addition to our vows, here are the words Ed and I chose to say to one another forty years ago. By God's grace, I would say them again and I am confident so would he.

    On August 4, 1974, my husband spoke these words from Hosea, "I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in justice, in lovingkindness, in kindness and compassion. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord." And these words from the Song of Songs, "I will set you as a seal over my heart and upon my arm, for love is as strong as death."

   And I chose Ruth's timeless words to Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."

   I told him then and I will tell him today: "You are the only one for me..." Thankful for forty years with a man of honor, strength and faithfulness. I love you!