Today, my husband and I celebrate thirteen years of marriage. Please enjoy this story I’d written more than two years ago about our relationship.
The fair is somewhat quiet around me. Tomorrow should be more promising. There are always slow days, after all. I never worry about it. God’s got a plan, and I’m contentedly going along for the ride. We pulled in two nights ago with our used RV, set up camp, and then set up my booth. I sell my wares like a traveling gypsy. I’m a Christian fiction author, and my husband of more than ten years and I travel most weekends to craft and agricultural fairs to market the books I’ve written, a part of my job I thought I’d dislike but truly love.
As a self-employed plumber, today he left me to fend for myself so that his customers’ needs are attended to. He’s a good and honest man, and as a plumber, is in great demand. Without complaint but hesitant to leave, he kissed me goodbye. We’ve talked between text messages and phone calls probably ten times already since he left. Jokes, questions, arranging life for our family, we always seem to have so much to share.
“How’s the honeymoon suite?” the vending manager asked us last night, smiling. He kindly fit us in last minute. Aside from the rooster that doesn’t seem to understand time at all, our campsite is wonderful. People often comment about the happiness we apparently show in each other’s presence, as if we are newlyweds. They’re surprised at how long we’ve been married. They think it’s sweet that we’d hung out together as teens. After high school, when young adult choices had us moving in different directions, he suggested we go together…as a couple. I couldn’t imagine that. He was too nice for me to consider any romantic connection. He wasn’t my type. I moved south, he went west.
As I’d known all those years ago, he’s a nice guy. Now I realize, he’s just my type. I’ve never known any man to be so giving, caring, devoted, and selfless. I wouldn’t be living my dream if it weren’t for his encouragement and constant support. He’s the backbone of our family and, aside from God, he is the strength and guide I lean on.
At home, our life feels simple. We’re content. Small town, big old farmhouse, parcel of kids who are getting older, some already moved on. We enjoy each other’s company and choose a walk around town on occasion.
“Where are you working tomorrow?” I ask as we round the corner and cross the street. We continue chatting, sharing our day, our hopes, our plans. His movement is subtle and quiet as he switches sides, slipping between me and the traffic. I smile. He’s protecting me. It’s such a stark difference to the hurt imparted by what I used to think was love. How did he get this way, I wonder? His childhood home-life was fractured too. He ran the streets with little supervision or boundaries. How did he become so thoughtful?
As young children we spent a period of time living only houses from each other. Me, at the top of the hill, him at the bottom. I don’t ever remember him from then, he remembers me. Our families were both poor. High-water jeans and second-hand clothes didn’t seem odd, it was just normal. Playing in the dirt in the yard and riding rusty old bikes brought happiness, to both of us I imagine.
I could say it’s been a long road, but in reality it feels like time is flying by. The blessings we’re experiencing now are humbling, to say the least. It’s not about the comfort we’re finally afforded after so many years of living on the financial edge, constantly teetering between having and not. It’s not due to any lack of difficult life issues. It’s the peace that has filled our lives that we’re most grateful for. I recall this journey’s beginning, the first chapter of my present life, a hesitant step into faith and hope for me.
I’d sat there curled up on my couch watching TV and crying. John Ritter had just passed away, and his wife was heartbroken. She commented on how close they’d been, that they always looked forward to connecting at the end of each day, whether by phone or in person, depending on their schedules. I felt sad for her, but her heartfelt torment highlighted a deficit in my life. I’d never known a love like that. I’d never been in a long-term relationship where the company of my partner was desired, let alone looked forward to. Arguments that scarred, actions that destroyed, that was life. Not just for me, but for most couples, as far as I could see. Trust and any sense of security had long been confirmed by me to be nothing more than fantasy.
I grew up in a home where tension and toxic stress settled and thrived. The results of which lay wait in me for years, anxious to rear up and render me helpless and afraid. As a teen, when my mother and step-father’s marriage finally fell apart, I became even more insecure and angry and sought attention in all the wrong places. Life was difficult, and at some point, I came to expect it would always be. Self-fulfilling prophesy? None-the-less, it was proving to be true.
From my perch on the couch, I looked around at the beautiful trailer I’d recently moved my four children into and felt sad. My second marriage had ended. I stayed longer than I should’ve, but I wanted desperately to honor my vow. I wanted to avoid the break-up of the family center, to spare my two youngest the struggles of fragmented households that my older two were already experiencing. My faith also tugged at my conscience. However, I was not coping well at all. The fear that gripped me in that house was too great, the effects of which were crippling. How much of my own deeply entrenched anxieties contributed, I’ll never know.
My gaze returned to the TV. I watched this newly widowed woman through blurry, tear-filled eyes, and I realized what true love sounded like. In my heart, at that moment, I felt God speak words of encouragement, “That love which you’ve never believed could be real is coming.”
I sat up more rigidly and wiped ineffectively at the tears running down my cheeks. You’d think I’d have been excited at such a declaration, but let me assure you, I had no desire to try love again. No. That’s what my heart screamed back. No!
The fair goers meander by, some browse, most walk on. Christian fiction is a niche genre, for sure. The conversations I’m fortunate to engage in at my booths are often uplifting and spiritually encouraging. Whether I sell a book or not, the blessing of these moments is all mine. The atmosphere makes me smile. I could never have imagined living this way, and it never would’ve happened if not for the love of my husband, the man God told me was coming.
“I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up,” he’d said timidly. I laughed. We’d just reconnected and were sharing where life had brought us during the fifteen years since we’d last spoken. His life was just as fractured and difficult as mine. With his own broken family and bad relationship story relayed, I felt bad. He’d deserved a good life. He was financially drowning under a couple apartment buildings that were great investment ideas gone bad as the price of heating oil skyrocketed. Meager pay from his relatively new job as a plumber’s apprentice lessened the stress only marginally. It was nice to see a friendly face, though, to visit with someone who wasn’t judging me or my failures. The old comfort of being in the presence of a good friend was immediate. Of course it would be, he was a nice guy.
Though I pushed back, hesitated, and denied it all, one day that “nice guy” looked cute to me. I remember that moment vividly. My heart skipped a beat. “No,” I again begged of God. “I’ve no interest in getting hurt again. I don’t want my children to hurt again from a decision I’ve made. Please, no.” But the cloud of darkness that had overshadowed my life had a silver lining. All that God had allowed was going to contrast and highlight the blessings that were to come. Out of my hurting and scarred heart was going to come an appreciation that wouldn’t have been attained had I not endured life’s difficulties first.
“I do,” I said, facing the most amazing man I’d ever met. Our six children stood at our sides as we exchanged vows that a year and a half earlier I denied I would ever utter. I no longer felt like a failure. We worked with the brokenness of our mixed up family, and together, we made home feel like home. Funny, we never really had a honeymoon then, and so the vending manager’s words were fitting. Life feels like a constant honeymoon to me now. I look forward to seeing and talking with my love each and every day. I often think about that night of revelation and direction and smile.
A twist of fate, an unexpected change in course, and a God given opportunity for both of us occurred years later. My husband, a master plumber at this time, was able to start his own business, and I became a published author. Now, he unwaveringly supports my endeavor to spread encouragement to the masses through my books.
“You’re beautiful,” he utters to me every day, and don’t you know, I actually feel beautiful. “I love you,” he tells me all the time, and I definitely feel loved. My husband’s never-ending and unconditional love and kindness make me feel like there is truth to his words, truth to my value as a person. There is so much freedom in a love like this that my world has exploded. Truly, God has brought to me that love which I never believed could be real. That silver lining has burst forth into full light, and its warmth and brilliance are most humbly appreciated.