I was 20 years old when I married Brad. He was 23. He loved my spunk and zest for life. I loved his quick mind and the fact he was a good conversationalist. We were kids, really. But we loved each other and we loved God and we trusted that our love would work the rest out. For the most part it has. Some of our 25 years have been sweeter than others. Some have been harder.
We welcomed two children into our family during these years. First, Jacob. He was born the day before our five-year wedding anniversary. Almost three years later, Anna joined our family. With a boy and a girl we decided our family was complete. Life seemed fairly settled—two kids, a house, a job. The Chicago area looked like it would be home for a long time.
And then we sensed that it was time to move in a new direction.
At age 35, Brad returned to school—graduate school, more specifically. Regent College in Vancouver, BC, captured our attention early in our marriage and suddenly an opportunity presented itself for us to go. We put the house that we thought we would live in for forever on the market and left for Regent the day after Christmas, December 26, 2003. Jacob was 7; Anna was 4. We were a mix of emotions—excited, scared, nervous, dreamy.
I tried to savor every day of our time in Vancouver. I knew it was a gift to live in this beautiful place amongst a rich community of thoughtful and engaging believers. We made friends. Found a church home. The kids learned how to downhill ski.
It wasn’t all roses, though. Our house took much longer to sell and we watched our bank account dwindle over the months. We counted on the sale of our house to help support us during this time. Some days I thought fear and worry over our financial situation would overtake me. We missed our families and friends back home. Our relationship stretched and grew during this time too. We learned how important it was to communicate with each other instead of avoiding the difficult and potentially conflict-inducing conversations. We took occasional date nights. We talked about what Brad was learning in his classes. We shared our hopes and dreams with each other.
In the early months of 2006, we learned that Texas would be the next place we called Home. Baylor University offered Brad an opportunity to study Philosophy in their PhD program. And I would be returning to the classroom full time as a teacher at Live Oak Classical School. Once again, God provided rich, meaningful community for us. While living in Waco, Jacob turned 13 and began noticing (and liking) girls. Anna got her ears pierced and transitioned from wearing glasses to contacts.
For Brad and me, the demands of his schooling and my job, coupled with raising a family, took its toll on our marriage in some respects. I think we saw more clearly how our different working styles (Brad thrives on deadlines; I thrive on chipping away at projects) affected our relationship. We took advantage of some free counseling offered to graduate-school couples at Baylor and learned to think of our relationship as a ladder. We needed to build rungs that connected us together rather than keeping us apart. We fell in love with the city of Austin and spent time there as a family and as a couple. We cherished our friendships with others who were in a similar season of life as we were.
In late spring of 2012, the phone rang. Suddenly, a new opportunity was on the horizon and we found ourselves considering teaching and living at a boarding school on Long Island, New York. The timing of this move felt more weighty. Jacob was entering high school and Anna was starting junior high. We sensed God telling us to go. Once again our love for new adventures and our reliance on each other sustained us as we began the process of packing belongings, saying goodbyes, and driving thousands of miles across the country.
As we celebrate this marriage milestone on July 28, 2016, we also mark five years of living at The Stony Brook School (yes, we arrived the VERY day of our 20th anniversary!). During this time, we watched Jacob graduate from this place and complete his first year of university. Anna will have the distinction of being a “six year senior” since she started in the 7th grade. Come May, she will graduate and be on her way. For Brad and me, we have learned new rhythms, those of a boarding school where we function in loco parentis. Some days the demands of our jobs feel almost too much. But most days we marvel at the unique opportunity we have to teach, to coach, to play, to worship, and to eat with middle and high school students.
When I said “I do” 25 years ago, I never imagined that these moves would be a part of our story. Incidentally, our time in Stony Brook marks the longest we have lived in the same house since becoming married. I wouldn’t trade the moves, even when the romance of a new place wears off and starting over feels hard. I have learned it takes time to feel connected to a place and to build deep friendships. Sometimes much longer than I would like. But we have loved each of the places we have lived. Our lives have been forever shaped by the friendships and the communities we have belonged to.
So here’s what I am celebrating today. 25 years later, we still really like each other. We like to spend time together. (We haven’t had to pay a babysitter in years!) Once I get past my expectations for how a trip (a day, a week, my life) should go, I think we make a good team. There’s a depth to our relationship that only comes from the passage of time and from the sharing of highs and lows together. When the storms come, and they have, we have learned to move towards forgiveness more quickly. Our shared history allows us to acknowledge our mistakes more readily–although they still hurt and leave wounds that require healing.
Recently Sarah Bessey wrote a piece entitled [Love Looks Like] Choices. She’s so right. Marriage is about making a choice to love another person through the good times and the hard times. Brad and I were young and fresh in our love when we started, but we picked each other (and I think we picked pretty well) and said, “until death do us part.”
We meant it.
Here’s to another 25 years (and beyond), Brad!