An engagement, a wedding, two homes sold and one purchased, a year come and gone since that evening.
A good Friday service, then to a local bar for dinner and music, and twelve months later we sleep with our six girls under one roof,
nearly six months into our marriage.
On that night if you were to have told me where we would be today, I would have believed you.
My heart knew.
It wasn’t just that evening of laughter and good conversation that led me to know he was the one.
Four years of work lead up to that date.
Relationships with others that helped me to learn.
Nights of prayer.
Lord, I give up. I place this in your hands.
When it was time, Matthew arrived.
Finally unencumbered by the “stuff” that weighs one down, we only needed the minutes alone together to know this was the start of the grandest adventure.
Many a night now I fall asleep mid prayer. He and I whispering words while children sleep in rooms above.
Matthew says I take a deep breath and he knows then he has lost me to slumber. On those nights he finishes the prayers for both of us.
A broken women’s prayers all those years ago, answered now in the form of a man who speaks her prayers when she cannot.
At first the thought of leaving seemed selfish.
Money had been spent on a wedding and a Disney vacation with our girls was around the corner.
But, if we didn’t carve out time alone now, then when?
After sifting through options it became clear that 4 nights and 5 days in Breckenridge, CO was where we were meant to land.
Twenty- four hours into our married life, we boarded a plan and found ourselves in the middle of those mountains.
And with nothing preplanned we made our way to daily mass where beautiful people prayed for our marriage then gave us some tips on good food and hiking.
Up to 12,500 feet elevation we climbed one day. My stubbornness almost got the best of us but this man, this partner, he’s my balance and his steadiness gave us direction.
We spent hours talking about our goals for the future, for ourselves and our family.
And when it was time to go, more gratefulness flooded my heart.
Happy to see our girls and ready for the real journey to begin.
Here’s the deal, this woman,
this one here,
in the white dress and big smile-
I’ll let you in on a secret.
She fails daily.
She at times finds it hard to breathe.
She’s been a less than perfect ex-wife.
She’s struggled with forgiveness.
She is an impatient mom.
She willingly admits these faults now because she is a recovering perfectionist.
In the recovery she has learned that the only way to slay the dragon is to acknowledge it and to name it.
You see the chase to perfect has eaten her soul at times.
It’s driven her body to revolt with shingles and kept her awake at night struggling to make her home look just as perfect as she hoped her heart would feel.
But perfect is an illusion.
It always leaves you wanting more.
What she craves is the joy that is born from the brokenness, from the failing.
So today, when she fails at work, at mothering, at being a wife, she will pause and remind herself that this life is much sweeter when she loves herself as her father loves her.
With or without that white dress and the big smile, full of imperfections, she will rest in his arms.
It was in this moment I knew, what she meant when she told me to float.
Here, in this church, pews lined with those who had been cheering us on, I felt myself float.
And as we vowed to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, a rush of our heavenly father’s love enveloped us.
A love I thought I needed to earn; one that couldn’t possibly be meant for this broken, sometimes bitter, woman.
But, yet I stood with this man, too impossibly good for words to describe, in front of six ecstatic girls pledging to walk with him forever. The father’s love for us palpable.
It happened because I said yes.
When feelings lay heavy on my heart to become Catholic, I said yes.
When he whispered in my ear that if a relationship was of his design, it demanded more, I let the old fall away and said yes to the new.
When my daughters said it was time for Momma to fall in love, I said yes to the trying which lead to those three new precious souls running into my arms and the subsequent yes to all that loving.
And when he called me to float down that aisle to the man in the gray suit who was pledging to become one with me, I listened.
I said yes.
And I floated.
It is a fairytale.
Not the kind of hallmark movies or a Nicholas Sparks novels.
It’s our heavenly father’s version of happily ever after.
A fairytale born out of stretching and growing, missteps and heartache. Building blocks on a journey that brought us to this day.
No glass slippers, just a belief that a desire born of the heart was God’s whisper; his calling that marriage was a part of his plan for us.
“Wake me up in the middle of the night Momma”.
What she really means is when the sky is dark, grab me from my bed, wrap me in a blanket and cuddle me on the couch.
Before sissy’s wake up, homework needs completed and breakfasts are made, in your arms give me moments of quiet slumber.
A tradition started soon after her daddy moved out.
My alarm clock would ring at 4:45am and the treadmill would beckon.
Most days, when I would return from the run, I would find her asleep on the couch. Awoken by the movements of my mornings; needing me, but knowing even at three the importance of those runs for her Momma, she staked her claim on the couch and patiently waited.
Together we came up with a solution.
The morning run complete, I would sneak into her room and whisper in her ear,
“It’s the middle of the night, shall we cuddle”.
And now as we await the addition of four new family members, the requests have returned.
She is finding her own ways of articulating what she needs to manage this life transition.
And, I am finding, our needs are not all that different.
In God’s house,
on bended knee,
he asked for my hand.
These girls, this man, this beautiful life and the journey that brought us together – yes.
When the giggles subsided, with tears flowing, we joined our hands and bowed our heads in prayer. Gratefulness poured out of me as I promised our heavenly father I would seek each day to be the wife, the mother, the women, he is calling me to be.
Our lives now joyful, together.
Born on this day 71 years ago.
A decade passed since the last celebrated with him.
His favorite pie, steak’s on the grill, a side of dry rub wings while we sat on the patio watching the deer dance down the hill. Daisy dog by his side.
Looking at the well-worn hands, holding the beer, you wouldn’t have guessed him a preacher.
Years spent weaving words together for his “day job” yet true joy came from moments spent in his yard on that hill or at his beach house, the constant battle with the encroaching prickly bushes.
Two days before he passed, as we stood around him, I rubbed his thumb. The low hum of the medical devices keeping him alive became the background music as I stared at those hands, flooded with a lifetime of memories.
He and I on our knees inspecting my work done with hand shears trimming the lawn. Gentle correction to cut the grass shorter next time.
His hands on the steering wheel, another road trip adventure to some far-flung battlefield. His baritone belting out You are My Sunshine.
His hands a reflection of his message, of how he choose to live his life;
battle-scarred, worn rough from working and loving hard.
One day these words will fade but I hope its my hands the girls will remember, may they resemble his.
Each evening before sleep our prayers are joined.
Whispered words over the phone after little girls are tucked away.
The routine born from a desire to put our faith at the center of our relationship.
Before the I love you’s to each other were spoken, we had chosen to share our love for him.
108 nights have now passed.
Vacations, work trips, weariness and girls unable to sleep, but not one night interrupted; not one evening missed.
Our foundation on which we build this house.
Its’ been a pleasure.
On this day a year ago all I wanted was to peer around the bend, just a snippet of what lie ahead.
No looking glass that night or the nights after, more uncertainty unfolding one day after the next.
But, at some point, living with the uncertainty became ok.
I stopped orchestrating.
I started listening.
And now 40 is not a single bit like I thought it would be.
I’m not who I thought I would be.
I don’t have to be finished.
I don’t have skip ahead to know the end to this chapter.
I can believe.
I can trust.
I can look back now to see that all along this 39th year was designed to lead me here.
In his time, in his way, answered prayers.
Thank you for all that you were.
If you don’t mind, could you put in a good word for me with 40? You’ve built a great foundation for her to work with.