Our story is not exciting. It will never be a novel or sell out a theater. But it is strong and it is real. It is comfortable. And it is mine. As it turns out, that’s all I need.
I knew his family first. I had spent time in his family home, taught his brothers, and laughed with his mom and sister long before I ever met him. I knew his name, and that he had been away at school, but even after being in the house he grew up in, I didn’t pay attention enough to even know what he looked like from family photos.
I had never seen his face until I saw him staring at me in church one morning – like, really staring… like, I-thought-I-had-something-on-my-face staring.
I was spending my last college summer working at a local church as a youth director. I met younger brothers, older sister, mom and dad through church, and had spent part of the summer already working with and around them. When I looked up from the stage that Sunday morning, these blue eyes were just staring. I wiped my face, looked down at my clothes and couldn’t figure out what might be the problem, so I let it go. Eventually, I was introduced to him – oh, he’s pretty cute. I like those eyes. Clearly, I go for the creeper vibe.
We found countless reasons to be around each other. A baseball game. A rafting trip. A family movie night that I was suspiciously invited to. A children’s camp that he (suspiciously) agreed to help with. There were humorous parts to the story – he scoped me out before the staring-in-church incident because his mother threw in subtle hints that he should get to know me. There’s the time he came to see me at work and heard me talking about him to a co-worker, so he hid (within earshot) until we finished talking about him.
Beyond the dates, there were so many reasons to love. We fit into each other’s families well. We both love family – our own and the idea of creating one – so this was crucial. We understood and supported each other through failed job choices. When he told me he loved me, my response was, “Are you sure?” Not because I didn’t love him as well, but because it seemed so easy, so simple, and so comfortable.
I wasn’t sure what love was supposed to feel like, but it turns out that love, to me, feels like home. So once we knew that feeling of home, we wanted to protect and honor it.
We moved pretty quickly – we met in July, were engaged by February, and married and moved away from everyone we knew in October, having known each other for just over a year. The decision to move away is a story for a different post, but I will say this much – it is always wise to talk to your partner about a job offer that will require a move. Did I mention we were pretty young – 21 and 22 when this whirlwind happened? Although I would not advise it to just anyone, there is something to be said for the fact that we have grown up together, and grown into one another. So much of our growing up as adults is wrapped up into the bond we have promised to each other.
We said yes to each other, to the life we dreamed of, and to a promise that we would fight for each other.
Our relationship has been built on a common question/theme: “What are we doing?” I thought it when we moved away from everyone we knew as newlyweds. I thought it when we bought a house. I thought it when we moved back to Chattanooga. I thought it when we bought another house. I thought it when we had our first child. I thought it when we were surprised by our second child. I thought it when we bought a car. I thought it when we bought another house. I am sure I have thought it countless times along the way because it’s basically my life motto.
What I’m learning along the way is that knowing what I’m doing is far less important than who I’m doing it with.
The man I said yes to is a hard worker, he is brilliant, and he is laid back. He works very hard, and he has spent years getting to where he is now professionally. He works with little complaint, and he always has time for another task. Speaking of, this man can fix/make/remodel anything. There’s not a job he cannot or will not handle. He studies, reads, and does most jobs around our house and with our vehicles. I cannot put a price tag on a man who can change your brakes, replace a toilet, and build a treehouse for your kids. He is also generous with his gifts – he is quick to offer help, advice, and time. And oh, he is calm. If anyone I know was asked to name my characteristics “calm” or “laid-back” is not going to even be close to the top 20 words that come to mind. That is why I need this calm man to keep me grounded. He lets me yell, he lets me panic, and he lets me jump to conclusions, but he is the steady anchor that I always hold onto when things are too much for me to handle (which is easily at least once a day).
Although it is easy to be sentimental and gloss over the hard stuff, the hard stuff is there just the same. Sometimes we say yes without the smiles. We say yes through gritted teeth in anger and through tears in times of sadness. We have fought about money. We have fought about honey-do-lists. We’ve fought about the future. We’ve cried through too many deaths in our families. We’ve cried over lost jobs and lost friends. Through it all, we have still said yes, even when things are hard. We say yes even when we don’t always know what we’re saying it to.