Good, Better, Best Part 2
My Father-in-law handed me a few old pictures of my husband and I a week ago telling me that he found them while cleaning out something.
Boy did they take me back.
Hey friends. I hope you are welcoming Fall and enjoying a beautiful breezy afternoon.
I was cooking with a friend at our church's Men's overnighter and had to stop in my apron trying to take in over 20 years of living between the awkward pic of us in Joel's office and present day.
I'm guessing it was one of the few pictures of Joel and I with absolutely no kids.
Those are hard to find.
Isaac made his appearance 13 days after our first anniversary and nine months after telling Joel that I just didn't want to take any birth control anymore because it gave me headaches.
I decided to tell him that a LITTLE WHILE AFTER I had already decided to stop taking it.
And a little while later there was Isaac.
I almost belly-laugh every time I think about Joel's face when we had this little "epiphany."
And how it seems so fitting to name Isaac, "laughter."
So many things we didn't know and thought we knew.
The least of them being how to make Grandma's "Cheesecake."
I look at this pic, me surely sick with morning sickness by this time.
My hair is full and curled, my thighs didn't even know the other one existed and I only had one chin.
My mind fast-forwards to a friend seeing a wedding pic of Joel and I and telling me, "I like you both better now."
This was most likely half because she was that good of a friend and wanted to make me feel good and half because she just knows the present day, "us.'
I remember seeing pictures of my in-laws when they were dating and early married and thinking the same thing.
I like how they look now, better.
Granted 70's colors and glasses never really did a whole lot for anybody, but I love them as they are now.
And while I held that photo in that camp kitchen I thought of all that had to transpire between that day and this present time.
All of the arguments because we aren't carbon copies of each other.
All the financial gains and losses.
All the changes in our schedules, ministries, bodies and minds.
All the times I wondered if he would just up and run away.
All of the time in a tiny house, welcoming six children and sending one along to heaven ahead of us.
All the moves to two different ministries. Three ministries in 11 something years.
All of the trying to be just like him because he must be a better Christian than I could ever hope to be.
All the feeling badly because my hair, my figure, my style just didn't look like I thought he would like.
All the learning of what it meant to be a "family."
All the managing expectations that led to disappointments and, "you should've just known's."
All the wondering how on earth everyone else does this.
All of the meals served in frustration from little ones, little budgets and little patience with learning how to cook.
All of the unrest.
That is exactly what it was. Unrest.
And somewhere we found a tape player to play our wedding back to us and all 8 of us sat around it and listened to vows in little whispers of weight.
I leaned-in to hear my own 21 year-old voice say,
"love, honor and cherish.."
And of course I cried.
I cried for the joy of promises kept, for the rest in letting each other be used and changed and kept by the HOLY SPIRIT and not our own timetables, plans and ideas.
I cried for the rest that comes in realizing that you can love and honor without cherishing, and that cherishing is the most important of them all.
Cherish- "to hold dear, to keep or cultivate with care and affection, to nurture, to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply or resolutely."
I Corinthians 13 gives a mile-long list of what someone can do without love.
If you want to see what it looks like to serve without love visit the Cleveland DMV.
I think for the first half of our marriage we were doing all the things but we were doing them with what we thought was love for the other.... and maybe it was.
Maybe it was a stoic love that tried awfully hard to win the other, but it wasn't a love that cherished.
Maybe you're a plant lady.
I am not.
At least three times I have been given an elegant, expensive orchid and thrice have I hummed "TAPS," as I threw it into the garbage where my husband wouldn't find it shriveled and dead.
Orchids are not just begging to go home with a family of 8 who runs "hither, thither and yon."
They are what I would call the "extra" plants of the plant realm.
As in, "She's so extra."
As in, what I tell my husband he is some days when he asks for ice or for a napkin, just to make us both laugh at the thought of him being anything close to "extra" for one moment of his life.
The internet well of all wisdom tells me that orchids. " need some water, but not too much. They need a south or east facing window that will give them strong indirect light."
What on earth is "strong, indirect light!"
"Make sure that the room it's in receives circulating air and of course keep that humidity within the 50-70 percent range."
THIS is crazy plant lady status.
THIS is what cherishing looks like.
And THIS is what I have learned am learning and hope to just keep learning about marriage.
No, not that it needs 70 percent humidity.
Stay with me people!
What I realized on that cassette tape 20 some years ago now is that I promised, PROMISED to cherish this dear man.
We promised to cherish each other.
And I cried because it took us a bit, but we finally learned how vital cherishing really is to a wonderful marriage.
Yes, we tell our kids that our marriage is more important than they are.
Yes, we go out on a dates and leave the kids with frozen pizzas even though they beg us 59 times not to leave them.
Yes we embarrass the socks off of them AND their friends.
(One afternoon I decided to grab onto my husband and hug him, knocking us both down over the side of our couch. This was spontaneous. This was romantic. This was Hallmark. This was also the day that our son's friend was over. This was funny until this friend came into the living room, saw us both lying on the couch very awkwardly and decided to BACK out of the room before we could even explain. Or move for that matter. We both just starred at this kid with a look that said, "One day you too will find yourself in this situation." Yeah, he didn't ask to come over for a while OR look us in the eye for a bit, but hey, it was "us.")
Here's the thing.
Marriage gets better.
Marriage gets SO much better.
IF you cherish each other.
If you watch for ways to encourage, pray, help and care for the other.
If you nurture their passions, their soul, and even their larger but still wonderful body.
It's caring and holding them dear when socks are on the floor or they try to wash and save another peanut butter container for something they know we will use it for.
It's thinking well of them when you have room to question, doubt or wonder just what they were thinking.
Cherishing is pie with real whipped cream because his Mom always made that special and pie is their one weakness.
Cherishing is folding their undershirts the same way for so long that you almost feel like Marie Condo doing so.
Cherishing is thinking of them first and last and sometimes letting them have the last sip of water when you are in bed and don't want to get out again but know they need a drink just like you do.
It's listening to the same stories told to visitors again and again because it means something to him to tell them, and just throwing away the broccoli stems because you have already asked him a thousand times why he doesn't just eat them.
It's loving and serving and thinking of how to do more of the same each day.
And it's for suresies thanking the Lord that THEY do the very same things for you too.
Marriage is the best gift other than my salvation I have ever been given.
The gift of a whole other human being to live with, laugh with and love.
It's comfortable and wonderful, secret and surprising, loud and funny and peaceful all at the same time.
And it's better every passing year.
Sure there are growing pains.
And waistlines and hairlines and chin hairs that come out of nowhere that you cannot see until your teenager tells you because you are far-sighted now.
There are no perfect pairs who do not war with their flesh that seems to have them in a headlock sometimes.
There are only imperfect twosomes who get up each morning and ask the Lord how to love His son or daughter well that day.
And I tell you honest and truly, you can have the wedding photos and the size 6 dress.
Give me all the stay in bed late curled like a pretzel on a Thursday morning where we talk about something, fall asleep, wake up again to talk about something else while the dog snuggles in-between and the kids try to make us breakfast. And we send one to the store for bacon and thank the Lord that math has been stalled for a few more hours.
Give me all of it.
Especially all of the bacon.