This week, our marriage is 15 years young. We will celebrate our anniversary by hanging out at Awana club with two of our kids for parents’ night. Todd also has a top-secret, homemade gift in the works. Melissa bought a card.
We treasure the many years we have had together, but the actual anniversary date never really receives a lot of attention. We are both aware that the day-to-day interactions we have are much more significant than chocolate, flowers, and dinner at a fancy restaurant. And that is okay with us.
We both decided to create lists this weekend of the events that most significantly shaped our lives and marriage in the last fifteen years. We made our lists in secret and then shared them with one another once we were finished. All of the items on the list were personal in nature, so anything national or global was not included. Melissa had 27 items on her list. Todd had 16. Interestingly enough, the lists were nearly identical. Todd did some combining. Melissa was more drawn out.
We put the lists together into one and decided that 15 items were important enough to make the cut. We are sharing here the following events that in the last 15 years most shaped who we are as a married couple:
1. We graduated from college and put down roots.
Melissa graduated with her bachelor’s degree three weeks before our wedding. Todd landed an internship a short time later. Then, Melissa began her professional career. These events, in combination with Todd’s need to finish his bachelor’s degree, caused us to put down roots in the town where we went to college. Really, really deep roots. We still have not left. This is home.
2. We found a church home.
While attending college as undergraduates, we were very hit or miss about church attendance. After our wedding, we decided it was time to try church a bit more seriously. We shopped around. A lot. When we found our current church home we both knew right away that it was the right fit. Fifteen years later, we still feel blessed by the friends we worship with there every Sunday.
3. We became parents.
When Abbie was born, we were very oblivious to how young and completely unprepared we were for parenthood. This was made more significant by some serious complications in childbirth and emergency surgery for Melissa. Abbie’s presence in our family is one of joy and humor. She is responsible and kind. We are grateful every day for the opportunity to raise her.
4. We became parents again.
Two short years after after we became parents the first time, Natalie arrived on the scene. She was three weeks early and caught us completely off guard on the night of her birth. She was also our little miracle, because the complications from Abbie’s birth nearly made Melissa unable to have more children. Natalie is fun, passionate, and sensitive. She is everyone’s best buddy. We love being her parents.
5. We bought a couple houses…and one almost floated away.
Being homeowners is something we have really enjoyed. In the days of apartment living, we were always itching to change and improve things, like the time Melissa hot-glued wallpaper border to the wall of our dining room. And then our kitchen. That did not work out so well. Then Todd tried to remove it. That did not work out so well either.
In our homes, we have knocked down walls, painted rooms whatever color we wanted, and replaced all kinds of outdated, ugly fixtures. It is really fun. Until a big river just a couple blocks away threatens to flood your city and float your house away. After that near catastrophe, we also became the proud owners of a shiny, new flood insurance policy.
6. Todd began his professional career and Melissa left hers.
At the same time that we purchased our first home, both of us made huge career moves. Melissa left her job to stay home with the girls. She opened up a licensed childcare and was a work at home mom for a long time. Todd began his professional career and became the family’s primary breadwinner. It was a large adjustment for both of us.
7. We both earned our Master’s Degrees.
Todd’s degree was almost done by the time he started his first professional position. He managed to begin and end his program in the typical two years. It was a really big deal and only happened because of many sacrifices and a lot of hard work. Melissa began her program before Abbie arrived and did not finish until almost nine years later. It turns out motherhood and graduate school are hard to successfully balance.
8. Todd was diagnosed with epilepsy. And the world stopped for a while.
Just a few short hours into our sixth anniversary, Todd had a grand mal seizure in his sleep. Todd had a history of childhood seizures, but had been successfully weaned off medication nearly twenty years before that night. There are medical diagnoses much more debilitating than epilepsy. And Todd is blessed to have successfully controlled his condition with medication since that night. Nine years, seizure free!
The aftermath of that one seizure was really hard for us, though. Todd’s medications changed his personality. Significantly. The state took away his driver’s license for many months. Melissa completely fell apart. Our marriage, for a short while, was on the brink of collapse.
But then, a miracle happened. We found a better medication. Todd regained his independence. Melissa found strength. And together, we rebuilt a struggling marriage into one that was stronger than ever before. At the time, Todd’s epilepsy was a disaster. Today, we can see it as a challenge used for our betterment.
9. We became foster parents and completed paperwork to adopt.
We strongly considered adoption shortly after we bought our first house. Then our little world fell apart and we shelved the idea for almost two years. Once our family regained stability, we knew it was time to take the plunge.
Becoming a foster or adoptive parent is an experience no one is ever prepared to undertake. All the training in the world cannot take the place of real-life, in the trenches parenting. We have had over thirty kids, ages infant through 14, walk through our doors in the last 6 years. Each child has taken a piece of our hearts with them when they left. We are better people and parents because of those children in our lives.
10. We decided to homeschool our kids.
People ask us all the time why we homeschool. It is a hard question to answer because there are many reasons. We began homeschooling after a really bad preschool experience with Abbie. She needed a year at home to regroup. It turns out that homeschooling suits us. We like it and it works.
11. We became parents for the third time.
When we began foster parenting, we had every intention of adopting one of those children when the relationship seemed just right. It is funny, but we knew in our guts the day we met Jocelyn that she was here to stay. She has stretched us as parents in ways we never thought possible. And we can only imagine the adventures that await us. We look forward to her exciting future–she gives us gray hairs and keeps us young all at the same time. Jocelyn’s infectious enthusiasm and love make her someone you cannot help but smile and laugh with. We are thankful for her presence in our family.
12. We decided to get out of debt. Twice.
Shortly after Jocelyn’s adoption, we decided to get out of consumer debt. And we successfully managed to do so. Then our almost new (yet pretty much a lemon) minivan almost decapitated one of the kids with its sliding side door. After the manufacturer and dealership told us there was nothing they could do, we decided to buy a different car.
Now obviously, we could have purchased a car that did not put us into consumer debt again, but we weighed pros and cons. And then decided to do it anyway. We really like the car we bought. We did not like the debt that came with it. So we paid it off and decided to stay out of debt, again. Hopefully.
13. We said goodbye to five grandparents.
One of the things about getting fifteen years older is that all the people around you get fifteen years older, too. Before our wedding, three of our four grandfathers had already passed away. Since 2001, three grandmothers, one step-grandfather, and one more grandfather left us. And that was hard.
14. Todd sold his truck.
We have bought and sold several vehicles over the years. Two tiny econobox cars. A Jeep. A Pontiac Vibe (Melissa’s favorite. Ever.). Two minivans. Our two current vehicles. And Todd’s truck.
Oh, the truck. It was good to us. And Todd loved it. But its miles were getting higher and big time repairs were looming, so the time came to sell it. Todd spent two years deciding what the truck’s replacement would be. He struggled to decide when the “right” time was. And then, one day, he just washed it up and posted it on Craigslist. A week later, it was gone. Todd insists he has no regrets. And he is telling the truth.
15. We became a single income family.
Closing the daycare was a gradual process that happened over a couple of years. The time to close the doors coincided closely with Todd’s professional move to a new company. His new salary made single-income living a possibility. We have to watch our budget closely, but we make it work.
We look back at the last fifteen years and realize that we are completely traditional in some aspects of our lives. And in other ways, we refuse to follow the crowd. The beauty of our choices, whether normal or unconventional, is that we made them together. Because fifteen years ago we made vows to one another. Important ones. To live together in holy marriage according to the Word of God. To love, to comfort, to honor, to keep in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be husband and wife as long as we both shall live.