As I sit here on the eve of our Twentieth Anniversary, it seems impossible to find the words to sum up the last twenty years (and you all know that I love words)! Marriage is an incredible journey. Truly.
Now for those who have heard our story, despite picking out my own engagement ring, when Jeff asked me to marry him, my first response was "I think so." I am so glad he re-asked me and I said YES! We were all of 22 years old when we married each other and we've grown so much together in the last two decades. The beauty of marriage is that we both sharpen, shape and sand the edges of each other's lives so that we hopefully look more like Christ.
While marriage has its ups and downs, walking those TOGETHER as been beautiful (and sometimes a beautiful mess...and a little bit crazy). I said it in a Facebook post previously...but we have walked through some valleys and stood on some mountaintops....TOGETHER. We endured the loss of three children through miscarriage and we celebrated the births of three amazing kiddos (and we've made it to the teen years!) We have endured a cross-cultural move (and taking language school side-by-side) and celebrated the joys of serving together and experiencing all God had for us in Nicaragua. We have journeyed through many seasons...TOGETHER.
Back when I could sing a little (or thought I could)...I sang "Grow Old Along With Me" by John Lennon to Jeff at our wedding rehearsal in place of our vows (we decided our vows would be said aloud for the first time at the ceremony). We have definitely grown older (and hopefully a little wiser) through the many seasons along this marriage journey. And like the song says, we are two branches of one tree...and our roots have grown deeper and stronger both in our love for each other and in the Lord. I hope we continue to grow old alongside one another because we are better together than apart. I love and cherish the partnership and friendship that we have. I love that God picked us out for each other.
It has taken intentionality to arrive at 20 years. We have had some amazing mentors along the way...both in person and in print. We have enjoyed learning and studying about marriage. We want to continue being intentional. We want to continue to be students of marriage. Being married takes effort and investment. And it is worth it! We've watched God pour blessing and provision over that effort.
We stood before God, amongst friends and family, twenty years ago and made a covenant to God and to each other. Here are the words we vowed to each other on July 26, 1997:
I, Jeffery, in faith, honesty, sincerity and love, take you Bethany to be my wedded wife. I believe that God has brought us together that we may fulfill the plan He has for our lives so that He may be glorified. I recognize and accept the responsibility and authority God as placed in my hands. I also accept the responsibility of following God's lead and patiently guiding you and the family God may entrust to us as He directs us in the course He has for our life together. I promise to selflessly guide, protect, provide, and care for you, and above all, to choose each day to love you as Christ does His Church. I promise that just as Christ is faithful to us, I will be a faithful husband by seeking to fulfill all the duties of a husband that God, in His Wisdom, has established. And although I do not know what lies ahead on this course God has set for us, I know that I will stay by your side to respect you, be sensitive to you, and to live with you in an understanding manner. Bethany, I promise to you my life as a faithful husband.
Bethany's Vows (no surprise, mine are longer)
I, Bethany, in faith, honesty, sincerity and love, take you Jeffery to be my wedded husband. I believe that God has brought us together that we may fulfill the plan He has for our lives so that He may be glorified. Recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I promise to live first unto Him, then unto you. Christ is the head of the Church, in the same way the husband is the head of his wife. Jeffery, I submit myself to you under God’s hand. I promise you with all my heart, my complete trust and respect, my deepest devotion, esteem, and admiration. Above all, I promise you that I will chose each day to love you with renewed love given by God. I promise you that I will strive to be understanding when I can not comprehend, to be patient when I want to move ahead, to be selfless when I want to be selfish, to be flexible when I don’t feel like being bent, and most importantly I will strive to be forgiving, remembering that I am to forgive as Christ forgives. Although I do not know what lies ahead on this course God has set for us, I know that I will stay by your side to support, encourage and help you. Jeffery, I promise to you my life as a faithful wife.
And no blog is truly complete without some photos. Now, believe it or not...but the first 9 years of our married life, we only had a 'FILM' camera. I know. Practically an antique now.
|The September of our Senior Year of College...the year we got engaged.|
|Our Wedding Day|
|The summer of our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY. We went backpacking.|
|Jeff's Graduation from Vet School in 2001. I was 5 months pregnant with Andrew.|
|And two become three.|
|And five (then).|
|20 years. Two shall become one, then five. (God's math is funny that way).|
My prayer is that we continue journeying together wholeheartedly--nurturing a vibrant and thriving marriage that brings glory to God. But for now, we celebrate our twenty years (and counting).