Steel. Marriage, Waiting, Fire and Eleven.

Steel. Marriage, Waiting, Fire and Eleven.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetMy alarm clock was going off. It was time to go running. The baby was calling out “Momma” in the monitor, so I snuck into a dark nursery and grabbed her out of her crib and snuggled her between us in bed. I looked over to see the Firecracker and her crazy bedhead backlit in our bedroom door. You leaned over and said, “Happy anniversary.”

I love that ours is a story of November. You asked me to marry you with the maples ablaze, and a year later we tucked those same fiery maple leaves in boutonnieres for you and your groomsmen. I looked up what the traditional gift is for the 11th anniversary. It’s steel. And while it might seem less than diamonds or crystal or something traditionally gift-worthy, I kind of think it’s the best gift ever.

Because you can’t make steel without fire, and you can’t go through eleven years together without pain. We are promised suffering in this world, and while we each carry a different story with different pain, as believers it’s a guarantee that there will be pain.  There will be fire. But it’s the very process of going through the furnace, searing hot and licking flames, that gives steel its strength and tenacity. It’s been eleven years since two twenty-one-year olds stood before family and friends to make a covenant between each other and before God Almighty. Eleven years of walking through the fire together, eleven years of God refining us through this gift called marriage.

Maybe the gift of steel isn’t something tangible you give. Maybe it’s something you build, deep within yourselves, within your family. Two souls saying yes to the One who first put a fire in their bellies. Two souls who know the soul-refining weight of grace. Two souls who have walked through the furnace of pain and waiting and sanctification.

Whenever I think of fire, I think of the story I first learned as a child about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 ESV)

And that’s where we find ourselves on this November day as we celebrate eleven–like two pieces of iron waiting in the fire. But we know the God we serve. We know He is able. We know that with every degree of heat He is refining us into steel. And we know that no matter what we have given Him our yes. We will serve Him and only Him.

And the thing is, when every day you wake up and give God your yes you don’t have to worry about giving your spouse your yes. It just comes with it. This thing God created, this thing He’s refining, this covenant relationship we are living out–it is an overflow of the daily yes we give God. The daily surrender to His plan. His sovereignty. His fire.

I’m proud to stand beside you in the fire, Matthew Hudson Roberts. Ours is a story of November, and I’m flattened with gratitude that it is your hand holding mine as we wait and pray and watch God move. I heard this verse this morning on my run, and I thought it was the perfect gift from our good God on this our 11th anniversary.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. ” (Job 42:5 NIV)

Faded Foil

Faded Foil

Somewhere between the crawfish étouffée and the bread pudding, he handed me a box. It was heavy, the size of a large book. I tore off the paper and opened the box to see navy leather and a name in silver foil, the name I would soon carry after I walked down the aisle the following day. Wrapped within that leather were the words that would carry me through the best and hardest days of my life. But, of course, I didn’t know that then.

I didn’t know those words would take us to Memphis, Tennessee, or give us friends who feel like family. I didn’t know those words would lead us to a church who would challenge us and teach us and push us. I didn’t know there would be a season when I pushed the words away because I didn’t want to confront my pride and ego. I didn’t know there would be a season when I slept with my those words beneath my pillow because of the nightmares that plagued my sleep after the miscarriages. I didn’t know those words would bring three daughters into our home, and I didn’t know those words would compel us to say yes to adoption. I didn’t know I would cry gallons of tears and write on every page and watch the spine crack from those words being splayed open day after day. I didn’t know how my marriage would change when I began praying those words for my husband over and over.

This thing we’ve forged–this messy thing called marriage, this daily choosing to break and pour–this is proof that His Word is living and active. That somehow He can take two imperfect people and tell His story of perfect Love. Maybe the cracks in the leather and the fade of the foil are the greatest indication of our first decade together.

Right now on the mantel there is a stack of family Bibles. When I open the brittle covers and turn the first gossamery pages, there is a space to record dates for marriage, births and deaths. Right there in the pages before the beginning of the Word–the Word that would become flesh for us and come to dwell with us, the Word whose body would be broken for us and whose blood would pour out for us–is a place to record and remember this covenant called marriage.

In Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas says marriage is more about our holiness than our happiness. When I first read that as a newlywed, I winced. But after ten years, I’m seeing the treasure in that statement. It’s the daily break and pour with my husband that’s drawing me closer to the One who gave up everything to break and pour for me. My Savior who took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25). In this family, we have a tradition of toasting to big moments and small ones, to date nights and vacations and getting the kids in bed and also to random Tuesday pizza nights. I’ve always loved this tradition of ours, but I’ve never thought of the cup and the new covenant during our toasts. There we are with glasses raised with an invitation to remember the One whose blood poured out Love once and for all.

Happy ten years, Matt. (A few days early!) Thank you for being a tangible representation of God’s grace and forgiveness. Thank you for being a man who allows God’s Word to mold him and make him holy. Thank you for breaking and pouring every single day for me and for our children. Thank you for choosing me.

Nine

Nine

weddingMatt,

I remember sitting in your driveway in your hunter green Jeep–the one with the gas cap that never closed–the summer after our senior year in high school. I knew I’d marry you one day, but that day seemed so very far away. And now, here we are celebrating nine years since the day we locked eyes down the aisle and began this journey called marriage.

We have crammed much life and adventure into those nine years. I remember our move to Memphis and the many trips to Sheridan’s for Grasshopper shakes those first few weeks. I remember when our food budget was $25 a week, and we lived on pasta bake and Totino’s pizza. (I also remember when we had the metabolism of twenty-two year olds.) I remember moving into our first house and repainting our walls a dozen times, sometimes twice in the same weekend. I remember when our dining room table was where we threw our bags after work because we ate dinner on the couch every night.

I remember going on lots of cruises because as far as vacations go they were pretty inexpensive and once you remembered your passport and muster station you didn’t have to think about much else for the week. I remember fajitas on a beach somewhere in Mexico and that talk where we decided we were ready to grow our family.

I remember waking up to take a pregnancy test on a cold January morning and that very first positive sign. I remember hearing that beautiful heart beat and going to Mississippi to tell our family, and I remember my heart breaking in the bathroom at Barnes and Noble as I feared the worst. I remember feeling the cold tile floor in the kitchen and hearing the sound of the ambulance sirens and the pain of that silent ultrasound. I remember several months later going to the movies and not saying a word, just gripping your hand until my knuckles were white, after our second trip to the hospital and a second silent ultrasound.

I remember the first time we heard, “It’s a Girl!” and the first time you held our daughter. I remember club sandwiches and Sprite every day for a week because that’s all I wanted after delivery and because you wore that green shirt that was the exact color of a Sprite can.

I remember looking at each other in church one January knowing this adoption thing was about to get real. I remember coming home that day and sifting through adoption packets and falling in love with those brown eyes on the information about Ethiopia. I remember writing a blog one night and being shocked to see a positive pregnancy test the next morning. I remember fingerprints and home study appointments and piles of paperwork. I remember the day we were officially DTE, the day our long wait began.

I remember calling you from the doctor’s office telling you I was in active labor and my doctor wanted me to get to the hospital immediately. I remember wondering if you were going to make it in time because this baby was coming so fast. I remember your grip on my hand as you announced to me and the world, “It’s a Girl!” and the look on Lydia’s face when she saw her sister for the first time.

I remember sleepless nights and bags under our eyes and lots and lots of coffee for you and tea for me. I remember learning how to discipline and train and raise these kids we’ve been entrusted with. I remember thinking this lesson will continue for years and years to come.

I remember realizing how badly my control issues were hurting us and having to confront some ugly parts of myself. I remember your forgiveness and our marriage becoming stronger than ever.

I remember crossing the finish line in January at the end of 26.2 miles and locking eyes with you. I remember whispering in your ear, “We did it!” because you were the one who believed in me on days when I thought it was impossible.

I remember calling you scared to death because I had just gotten a positive pregnancy test, but I hadn’t been on the progesterone like I was with our girls. I remember the email back from our adoption agency where we realized we would now need to move because we needed another bedroom after baby came. I remember that walk around the lake where you told me we would do whatever it took to bring our child home.

Laced throughout those moments, I remember learning how to pray–truly pray. I remember Scrabble games and date nights and watching lots of football. I remember some epic arguments, both of us incredibly stubborn. And I remember learning how to say I’m sorry. I remember learning that the romance movies have it all wrong. Love isn’t about kisses in the rain and serendipitous timing. Love is a choice, the daily choice to choose we instead of me. The choice to grow and stretch and learn and become and embark on this adventure God has given us together.

For nine years, you have wrapped flesh around the words for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. And in loving me and forgiving me and believing in me you have made me more like Christ.

I love you more than words could ever convey. To the moon and to many more…

That Night

That Night

weddingIt was a perfect fall night. The air was laced with a chill and everywhere bubbles floated around us, like swimming in a champagne glass. He grabbed my hand and I twisted the smooth band around his finger, smiling at the shiny reminder of our new journey. Once in the car, we were cocooned in a swarm of white wedding tulle. With one hand we waved goodbye to family and friends and with the other we gripped a mass of white balloons. We looked at each other, hit the gas and let the creamy orbs soar dotting the inky sky like pearls on black velvet.

It was late as we pulled up to the beautiful Fairview Inn where we were spending the night. My sweet friend Kirsten worked at the inn, and she had worked her magic to get us the Spanish Suite where the queen of Spain had stayed when she was in town for the Majesty of Spain exhibition. We opened the door into a room cast in a golden glow. Buttery walls, a gilded canopy bed laden with layers of feathery down and fine linens, the bathroom clad with marble and stacks of fluffy towels. We collapsed onto the bed fit for Midas himself. With all the excitement of the night, all the dances to dance and necks to hug, we had barely eaten anything except a couple scrumptious bites of chocolate cake with raspberry filling and a few extra licks of buttercream icing. By then it was nearly midnight and we were famished.

We went back out to the car and dug around in the trunk searching for the basket of reception food we were supposed to have, but it wasn’t there. And that’s how we ended up back in the convertible at midnight driving the sleepy streets of downtown in search of late night munchies. A few minutes later we spotted it, not wedding bells but Taco Bell. We winked at each other, laughing because, of course, we would end up at Taco Bell on our wedding night and pulled in the drive-thru. A few minutes later with a Grande Meal, five crunchy tacos for him, five soft for me, a pile of Fire sauce packets and two gigantic fizzy sodas in hand, we made the short drive back, piled onto the gilded canopy bed and gleefully devoured every last bite.

We didn’t know then how fitting that memory would be, a humorous allegory for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, suite fit for a queen or Taco Bell Grande Meal, to love and to cherish all the days of our life.

There are so many things about that night I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the way he looked in his tux or the smile and the tears when he locked eyes with me down the aisle. I’ll never forget my squeals in the back room after walking down the aisle as husband and wife or the way my cheeks hurt because I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ll never forget our first dance to Frank Sinatra when he sang every word in my ear like a secret promise for our future or the rowdy rendition of Sweet Home Alabama with our college friends. I’ll never forget driving off under a canopy of twinkling stars with toilet paper streamers fluttering behind us and my hand laced with his. And I’ll never forget the ten-dollar box of tacos on the day you and me became us.

Yesterday, today and every day, I choose you, Matthew Hudson Roberts, to love and to cherish all the days of my life.