Twenty One Years

“You’re no verra sensible, Sassenach, but I like ye fine. Let’s go.”

-Jamie, Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)

This Saturday, April 18, is our “together-versary”. Our relationship is old enough to sit down with us and look back on its life so far with an adult beverage! And what a life it’s been! Early on, in the infant and toddler years (99-02), I think everyone but us (and maybe my mom, who really really liked you,) thought we were never gonna make it, but, like a miracle child, we defied all the odds. The preschool and elementary years (04-05) were sweet and mostly carefree. The pre-teen years…were a learning experience with lots of scraped knees and wrong turns, but by the time we were eleven (2010), we had learned to ride the bike without crashing often, and when we did, our safety equipment (a stronger faith anchor and church family) was already in place. The early teen years (2011-2014) were, like in the life of a real child, a time of so much transition, becoming parents, starting to navigate our own dreams and desires really for the first time, learning that we could make our own paths in unexpected ways, and that maybe it wouldn’t always be easy or comfortable. Like in our own lives, the time from sixteen to twenty years together was a lot of beauty and struggle mixed together, and has served to make us stronger as a couple. And after allll that- now we are all growed up.

And…hopefully that’s where that analogy ends, because I seriously hope we learned enough in our actual twenties to not rehash all that. HA!

Scotty, I love you so much. When I think back on the past twenty one years of being yours, it still feels like a real life fairy tale. We’ve been through so much, and the literary parallels are easy to make for me.

We had a little Romeo and Juliet, falling in love so young, and with…less parental support than one would desire.

You were Mr Darcy early on…there was something almost immediately when we met, but it didn’t display as romance, exactly, and I was pretty sure you had, if not full on dislike of me, at least some serious disdain.

You were my Mr Knightley too, not letting me get away with less than flattering behaviors, but loving me despite my shortcomings.

You were, maybe most of all, in the time before we were together, my Colonel Brandon, loving me with action while watching me pointlessly throw myself at someone uncapable of loving me as I needed and deserved.

You were, also, my Edward Cullen, but it’s nobody’s favorite comparison, so I won’t go there today (I already wrote that post years ago. *wink*)

You have been the Katniss to my PTSD/OCD Peeta- helping me separate real from not real.

And then, long before I read the books to know it, you became my Jamie Fraser. A relationship begun with a lot of nervous reservations and not a little chemistry; a woman in need of saving and protecting, even from his own family, A man who found himself inexplicably drawn to her despite the disapproval of everyone around him…drawn closer and stronger by all their shared trauma, fighting past heartbreak and loss together, even when it threatened to tear them apart. We’ve fought battles side by side, we’ve strategized a way through impossible circumstances, holding tight to each other even when we’ve had nothing else. We love hard and fight hard (and I’m really trying hard not to tear your guts out…) we look to empower each other’s gifts and callings, even when we can’t see the outcome, and no matter what, we always end up where we belong- together. You are my king of men (still looking for something you’re not good at…) and I will always choose you, no matter what.

Our road has never been smooth for very long (another reason we are like Jamie and Claire) , but we are on it together. I am so thankful for where God is taking us both, for getting to celebrate your accomplishments, you being recognized, succeeding, and shining. I am beyond blessed to celebrate and share with you all the ways God is pouring into me, and have you support and build me up every step of the way. You never doubt my dreams and do all you can possibly do to make them possible. You always have, and now, as I learn to be bolder and braver and really dream big for the first time in my adult life, I feel your support more than ever.

I was thinking this morning, as I lay beside you, about the very early days of our relationship, those first few weeks when nobody knew but us (and probably Kristine and John) about what had sprouted between us. I remembered the way my heart would race whenever the phone rang in the evening on Tuesday or Thursday, or how excited I would be to get out the door and get to church on Sunday morning and evening. The warmth and calm of your voice in such a tumultuous time in my life. I remember the first physical contact we had once we were “together”- your hand on the small of my back walking into Sunday school. It was a tiny thing, but the beginning of a feeling of safety that hasn’t ever left me, even as life and my mental health have tossed me on waves of uncertainty, heartache, rejection, fear… your hand has been there, anchoring me, tethering me, to truth and goodness and light.

Sometimes, when I am flooded by my anxiety (triggered has become a word that’s almost a joke these days), and you are telling me things are going to be just fine, I get angry. I know it’s confusing, because you are only trying to help, and it’s confusing to me too. I think the reason I get so upset is because, with all the pain and heartbreak I have experienced in my life, I struggle to ever expect or even hope for a positive outcome in a situation-it feels safer to expect the worst. Most people wouldn’t expect that of me, because I am a very positive person, but that’s the truth. It’s terrifying to me to try to expect that everything will be okay, or even wonderful. I’m just now, in the past year, beginning to really grab hold of God’s goodness in that way. But you had a very different life before we were together- even though your family endured financial hardship growing up. your life was free of trauma, rejection, heartbreak, failure, ridicule. You grew up empowered and confident that you could do things, you were valuable, loved, supported, and admired by your peers. Even though you’ve been living in my crazy orbit for the past 22 years almost, with all the drama that entails, you retain the confidence and optimism that goes with that- and that is why you expect the best and are confident that the things that terrify me will not come to pass. I’ve come to realize that some of my reaction to that is frustration with my own inability to think like that, and just a sense of “it’s not fair!!” But really, Honey, I love that about you. Please don’t stop being my voice of hope, optimism, and, if I’m honest, reality. It does help, even if I seem to be rejecting it in the moment. My hope is, as I grow and heal, that I will absorb some of it and be wired more like you in that way.

I remember when I was pregnant with Lexi, and just terrified and convinced we were never going to meet her. You were amazing, every single day, especially during those early third trimester days when I couldn’t get out of bed for fear that I’d miss her movement and not know if she was okay. You made us “God’s Lexi List”, of all the reasons and signs that God was really and truly blessing us with a little girl after all the waiting. It is one of my very favorite memories of my pregnancy, lying in the bed, with out hands on my belly, you reciting to me all the reasons, or asking me to recite them to you. You are such a gift, Scott.

I’ve thought a lot, over the years, about how I’ve never felt like I missed out, not ever dating anyone else. It’s such a gift to have a love with no comparison, no need to measure up or be better than some other girl in your past. (even though I have managed to feel insecure about your past crushes, because I’m me…) I maybe used to think that it made me less qualified to talk to others about relationships, having only had one, but, I think, instead, it makes me qualified to talk about what commitment really looks like, how to fight through challenges, how to fight for the relationship, even when it feels like everything is set against you.

I also find it incredibly romantic and powerful to have been chosen, committed to, and never given up on. It’s mind blowing the way you must have felt about me, the way you must have believed in me, in us, to have put up with all the nonsense and ridiculousness we did early on, and as a teenager! It would have been so much easier on you to just throw in the towel. I wasn’t acceptable to your parents, your friends, heck even my own parents. I lived two hours away, so we saw each other almost never, and when we did, it was under just insane circumstances and rules. I’m just sitting here shaking my head, remembering. Phone calls were allowed before 9:30 PM two days a week, I could check and send email twice a week during a thirty minute window, we had to have someone (usually a sibling) with us at all times during the 48 hours a month you were in town after the first 6 months we were together, NO HUGGING EVER…No sitting next to each other in the movies-okay, so that rule got followed only once, and we still managed two hold hands across an empty seat, because even at 16 you felt we had to draw the line somewhere.

I was then, as I am now, so attracted to your confidence in leading us. You told me all the time that you knew that we didn’t need all the rules, that we could make wise decisions without them-and that affected me greatly. I don’t think I’d ever heard another teenager think that way, and it definitely felt foreign to have someone believe in me that way. I knew we could too, and even in that time of weirdness, because we wanted to obey our parents rules, but knew they were ridiculous and unnecessary, we began to build something that became very important to our marriage- the ability to make our decisions together, and make them our own. You chose to wait six months to kiss me, not because anyone else told you kissing was wrong, and not because anyone told you you needed to do it ASAP, but because you were choosing what was right for us. This was just one of many things that built the trust in your leadership that is foundational. And you did it at sixteen.

And you chose me. Emphasizing each different word and in that phrase communicates a different way you changed my life.

You chose me. You were the leader, in a lot of ways, in our peer group. All the guys, whether they’d admit it or not, respected your opinion, and you were definitely the only one the other two girls took seriously at all. For you, someone who, even at sixteen, had direction and intention in his life, as well as more spiritual maturity than his peers, to choose me, the broken one, the one that was treated as almost a charity project as a friend, rather than an equal, at least part of the time, communicated something big, both to others, and to me, about my worth. At first that was a little scary for you, which totally made sense- nobody wants to be on the other side of popular opinion- and maybe that affected your actions early on in ways you now wish it hadn’t, but you didn’t let it stop you from choosing me, and when there was blowback, you didn’t let it make you give up on me, on us.

You chose me. In my life up to that point, nobody really chose me. My dad did, in the sense that when he married my mom, he chose to adopt me, to make me his child, to give me his name. But, he didn’t choose me for me only, y’know? He loved my mom, and we were a package deal, and so he chose to be all in on that. I’m so thankful! But you were the first person to ever say, “You. I want you. Not Joy, not Sarah, not girl 1, 2, or 3. I want you-for me.” I’m talking, I’d never even been chosen when teams were picked in gym class. I was always the last person standing. When we had to pick partners in class or for group projects, I was always assigned someone, because I was never chosen. When there was a conflict in my previous youth group, and sides needed to be chosen, I always stood alone, even when adults got involved. When I was bullied through all of middle and half of high school, nobody chose to stand up for me, not even the adults. But you chose me. You didn’t default to me, you actively pursued me, even starting months before we became us. You sought out getting to know better what made me tick, asking me questions nobody had cared to. And in those early days, weeks, months, years, when everyone in your life was questioning your choice, you kept choosing me.

You chose me. The broken one, the awkward one, the one who needed, the one whose insecurities led to silly overcompensation. The one who was an embarassment and disappointment to her own parents most of the time. The one who wasn’t what your friends expected or what your parents wanted. And you kept choosing me. When your parents protested. When your best friend hated me. When I embarrassed you. When staying with me meant long drives and silly rules. When my character was called into question days before you were going to propose. When we were lost and went off the rails 11 years ago. When I descended into madness five years ago, and couldn’t begin to see a way out for the first two…you’ve kept choosing me over anyone and anything that could have been easier.

I know and see now, in very large part due to your love and belief in me, your pursuit of helping me to see myself the way God does, over the past 21 years, that I’m far more than all those negative things I saw myself as in those early days. I used to not know what you saw in me, and I felt lucky and blessed to be yours. I still feel lucky, and incredibly blessed, but far less like there’s no reason you would love me. I’m actually pretty awesome, and seeing that, with your help and that of a couple other key voices, actually helps me love you better, by tapping into those gifts and strengths.

I know it’s hard for you to think about some of those early times, early conflicts with others, and you even regret not choosing me “better”, more assertively, for a long time, but, Scotty, the whole time, you were blowing my mind, because nobody had ever chosen me even as openly as you did. I was so broken, I had such low self worth, that even being loved “secretly” by you at the start, and having to “play down” how serious we were for awhile, and all the things I just had to suck up from others for years were the price of being seen and loved and wanted in a way i never had been before. Do I see in hindsight that I deserved better from all those people, including you? Yes. But honey, you were SIXTEEN when we started, and what could have been better was just not available to you. I want you to know, you were amazing to me then, just like you are now. And every day you become more amazing to me. because you keep choosing me.

If I could go back and talk to us at the very beginning, I think I’d say something like this:

To Mae: This boy does love you. He is as crazy about you as you could ever hope for, as crazy as you are about him. You can trust him. He’s not trying to trick you, he’s not looking for a reason to just drop you on your tush. He wants you and he wants the best for you. He wants you to grow and be better, but he also loves you now, as you are. He sees and loves all the things in you that others have missed, and the things you’ve been told are liabilities, like your passion and sensitivity are beautiful to him. You can relax, he’s going nowhere and he wants nobody else. You can also ask more of him, if you need to. He wants to love you well, but he can’t read your mind. He isn’t gonna kiss you for six months, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to, or you’re gross. He has his reasons, and trust me, it will both be worth the wait, and the S will hit the fan when it does happen. So be chill. You are not something that needs to be fixed. Not in his eyes, or God’s. So when those messages bombard you well past your tenth wedding anniversary, let them roll off. That’s not about you. When your heart is broken by loss, you can turn to him, even if it feels scary. It’s uncharted waters, but you two can chart them together. You’re gonna face some storms, but I promise you’ll come through them together and stronger than before. Don’t lose hope. And, as much as you love, admire, and respect him now- just wait. you have no idea.

To Scott: I know this is all new and crazy and scary. I know I’m turning your life upside down and nothing about loving me is easy. Buckle up. It’s gonna be like those roller coasters you love so much and want me to ride so bad. Spoiler alert: never gonna happen. Certain relationships are never going to be what we want them to, and it will be okay. I will grow and get stronger, and so will you. We will laugh more than we cry, I promise. Those guys whose opinions stress you out now? Most of them will be in our wedding and you’ll never see them again after that. That’s not bad news, though, because you’ll eventually have a best friend who loves me, even if he thinks I feel too much, and is more faithful to you than all of them combined. My mom will continue to think you hung the moon, and that will always make you smile. When you do finally kiss me- It’s gonna be real good. then the world will explode for a week or two, but we will get through it. The things you love about me won’t change, my light won’t be dimmed, and the way my passion is directed at you won’t either. I’ll be excited to see you like it’s been a month every time you walk into the room, even approaching two decades of marriage. My passion and love for my favorite band won’t dim, either. Sorry not sorry. You’ll grow in your ability to stand firm and lead, and I’ll learn to trust you and be more secure. I don’t know if you question right now if this is all worth it, but it is. The ball you started rolling on Super Bowl Sunday 1999 is going to turn into something strong and beautiful and life giving. Literally. You’re also gonna be a great dad, even though it’ll be a long wait, and that’s going to make my heart explode on the daily. We will both make mistakes, but they won’t destroy us, because God made this match. I love you.

I feel like I have so much more to say, but this is already pretty long, and, thankfully I have a lifetime to tell you and remind you of all the reasons and memories and thoughts of why I love you.

You are my absolute favorite.

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