23 Years Together

Today J-M and I celebrate 23 years of marriage.
This might be our most significant anniversary yet as it marks the threshold of being married as long as we were unmarried.
J-M were having a conversation about what we might say is “different” about our marriage since those early years because we sometimes carry the delusion that we’re the same two young, naive kids. But then we find ourselves examining each other’s moles – “does this look normal to you?” – or going to bed early to read and are confronted with the reality that we are, indeed, aged and aging.
So it has been a fun exercise to consider how we’re different than when we first began.
There are the obvious things like how we’ve both gained a middle-aged middle and are surprisingly OK with it. We did some quick math to figure out that J-M has gained an average of 3 lbs per married year and my average is 2. (Having said that, we might wish to slow that pace if we project into our 60s, and make our own efforts to flatten the curve, so to speak.) We were both recently greatly amused to discover, while swimming at the public pool in our neighbourhood, that neither of us can possibly sink. Like, if we do nothing at all, no moving of limbs, “standing” stock still in the deep end, we simply bob, nose and mouth above water. So I’d call that a wonderful, life-saving discovery.
There have been many marital victories to celebrate along the way, like reducing frictions in our everyday life, finding ways to enjoy each other, supporting each other through stress, for example. As each year passes, we “get” each other more. I am particularly tickled when, in a fight, we help each other recall the words we need to argue our point.
One stand-out win for us a few years ago was discovering the answer to J-M’s obnoxious snoring was related to sleep apnea. He now has a CPAP machine and sleeps silently. I feel a little like I saved J-M’s life. And he has saved mine in various countless ways. It turns out some life-saving efforts can take months of sleepless nights and dark days to do so.
Besides milestones like moving, having children, changes in career, etc, there have been two significant points of growth in our marriage. The first was around year 6 or 7. We seemed to be checking off all the “right” boxes: careers, children, home, vacations… but there was a mounting restlessness. Surely, we thought, acquiring possessions and status or relational compatibility cannot be prime objectives of marriage; there had to be more. It was in that season that we challenged ourselves to live out our faith in Jesus, to listen in and hear what God was saying to us about why he’d brought us together and how to live out his purposes in our lives. I credit our beautiful community of friends who inspired us in this way. Such “living out of faith” took our family to live in Ghana for a time and for J-M to move from teaching to pastoring and for me to be open to lead alongside J-M in various ways. Our life became a life-giving spiritual adventure.
The second point of growth was a about a decade later, 18 years into marriage, we were going through many stressful things in life and ministry, changing jobs, moving, difficult things happening in friends and family’s lives that were taking their toll on our marriage. I have said that this is the year my marriage vows had to kick in (for J-M it was Year One). For the first time, I understood the temptation of wanting to leave. We seemed to perpetually be at odds with each other. I learned what it meant to love even when you can’t feel it and not let feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness take root and split up our oneness. Again, it took sleepless nights and dark days.
We said hard things to each other, we got counselling, we learned to pray for each other and we made it out the other side. I might even say, we were better for it (though I would have slapped you had you told me that in the moment). As I write, I’ve never been more (giddily so!) in love with J-M. Which is to say that a hard season can be the seedbed of beautiful growth.
I know that our marriage doesn’t look like everyone’s and I also know, having worked in family law and in ministry, that marriage can be a place of great and unresolved pain. I believe it is one way, but not the only way, that God works his life-saving activity in and through us. It will certainly uncover your “stuff” built out of survival or selfishness. It will not fix you. It will change you.
I just asked J-M if he’d recommend marriage and I’m thrilled to report that he didn’t hesitate to say yes. I asked him why and he said “because you learn about yourself, you learn about grace, you learn about faithfulness and you get to have fun.”
And there you have it, he’s always been more succinct than me.
Happy anniversary, J-M. You are the love of my life. Let the adventure continue!

15 years in

Today I am celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary to a guy I am totally in love with.  Like so much in love, that if someone asked me whether I had to choose between $10 billion or John-Mark, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say John-Mark, only John-Mark!  And then, if they upped the price to $11 billion? Same answer, but I’d hesitate slightly.

Even though he’s so priceless, I still did not get him a card or a gift because that’s what happens on your 15th anniversary.  You’re OK without that stuff (although if J-M snuck me a little something, I’d not turn it away).

Plus we did “JUST go to Costa Rica, HELLO.”

That’s me quoting my teenage daughter, when she heard we’re heading out to dinner at a swanky restaurant.  That’s because our friends gave us a gift certificate for marrying them at an impromptu ceremony.  Remember that?  It’s also because we’re indulgent.  First a tropical vacation and then dinner out?  So. Weird.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to post an old entry from four years ago. Not because I’m lazy and it’s easier to recycle old entries, not because I’m late for dinner and really should change into something besides shorts and a tank when patronizing a reputable establishment… but because in our 11th year, I discovered a life-changing truth about marriage that keeps me thrilled to be married to this guy 15 years later.

Check it out:  Elevenses.

Happy Anniversary John-Mark.  You’re worth more than $10 billion by a long shot.

Anticipating a Costa Rican Anniversary Adventure

In just one week, John-Mark and I will be going to Costa Rica to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

Before you go saying how romantic this is, I would also like to point out that John-Mark purchased our accommodations via wag jag (sketchy) and we’re not even going to bother about our transportation till we get there (cheeky).  This, my friends, is an ADVENTURE.

I know next to nothing about Costa Rica.  I’ve heard of two other people who have travelled there before and one person who ran a resort that went bankrupt (didn’t sell enough wag jag coupons?).

I know that Costa Rica is located in Central America.  I know that it is hot and humid and we’re visiting during rainy season.  I’ve heard that the wildlife is “quite something,” which scares me more than excites me about the trip.  I know they speak Spanish.  This is the extent of my knowledge.  Typical dwellings? Cuisine?  Handicrafts? Clothing? Music?  No clue!  But can’t wait to find out!

John-Mark, on the other hand, checked out every travel guide the library had – 11 seems right – and read them cover to cover.  He would have checked out 12, but one was out on loan by another patron of the library.  However, John-Mark was sure to put number 12 on hold, to be notified for immediate pick up.   I forbade him to check it out.  11 was enough.  More than enough.  If he read that 12th travel book, he would no longer need to visit Costa Rica.  I would go without him.

He knew that was an empty threat since I have no idea where I’d be going or how to get there.  Still, he was kind enough to remove the hold.

I love the idea of going in “cold” and discovering Costa Rica, as shown to me by the country herself.  This is the opposite of our regular Ghana excursions, as we are always trying our best to understand cultural practices and to pass them on to others who visit for the purpose and benefit of our partnership.

But this trip is not to Ghana and it is not a mission trip.  Crazy, eh?!  This will be the first vacation that J-M and I have spent alone together since our honeymoon.  We plan to do nothing for 10 days but explore Costa Rica, relax, read lots and… other private stuff.

I am anticipating that time will slow down a little.  That might be unrealistic?   It will be just us and no real agenda.  I am bringing my camera and my laptop.  J-M is letting me write while we are there.  I can pretend I’m a travel journalist and let you know about some of my discoveries.  Maybe I’ll make friends with a monkey.  You’ll want to know about that.  John-Mark would check that out at the library.

I have no idea if we’ll have WiFi because I have no idea where we are staying.  J-M said we’re travelling from the mountains to the rainforest to the coast to the city.  Sounds perfect to me.