Wow. I mean it. Really! Just… WOW!
Today, I have been married to the love of my life for 30 years. As I sit here thinking over what I could possibly write that would reveal the true depth of just how much that means to me, I am coming up nearly blank.
It was December of 1985, and I was in the last year of my teens when my best friend and his girlfriend introduced me to Tiffani. Employment for me at that time was that of a typical teenager, and I had been enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard since May of 1984. At that point in life, I was not yet a believer or follower of Jesus… just a kid doing his own thing. Hot-rodding fast cars, playing guitar in various heavy metal bands, and simply living to do whatever made ME happy. Over the next few months, Tiffani succeeded in stealing my heart.
Prior to meeting Tiffani, I had already figured out that I needed more discipline in my life, and had arranged to do an inter-service transfer from the Virginia Army National Guard to the active-duty US Air Force. In early 1986, I shipped out for AF training at Lackland AFB, Texas. I was only at Lackland for a total of 9 days. Once the Commander figured out that I had already been through Army basic training, he sent me on to jet engine school at Chanute AFB in Illinois. (Although he DID make me complete all the major milestones of Air Force basic in a single day… shooting range, drill & ceremony, confidence course, and several other events.) However, it was during my very short stay in Texas that Tiffani let me know she was pregnant. Boy, did that ever rock my world. I would then have a couple of days on the bus between Texas and Illinois to think over the situation.
It was probably less than a week into my jet training when I was on a payphone (remember those??) with Tiffani, dumping a handful of quarters into the slot every few minutes to maintain the long-distance connection between Illinois and Virginia. I recall just blurting out “Will you marry me?” sometime during our conversation, and with only a momentary pause to process my question, she said yes. So there it was… the question, the positive response, and the collective sigh of relief. But because of my own youthful fear of commitment, it wasn’t to happen for well over another year.
Early in 1987, I was stationed at my duty base – Charleston AFB, South Carolina – when I asked Tiffani if she’d move into off-base housing with me and our infant son. She agreed, the plans were made, and she moved down from Virginia. At this point, we still were not married – just living together. Soon after moving to Charleston, she made it clear to me that she wasn’t so keen on the idea of being “only” my girlfriend. The conversation went something like this… “You WILL pick a date to marry me, or I’m taking our son and moving back in with my parents until you can get over this.” Again my world was rocked, but I decided it was time to get past my fear. I chose my upcoming 21st birthday – August 28 – as my way of trying to never forget my yearly anniversary. And while that may have been childish thinking at the time, the logic has worked for me for 30 years now! 😉
On that day, my best buddy Rick held our 8-month old son Tim in his arms as Tiffani and I stood before Randolph Hille, a Justice of the Peace based on Folly Island, South Carolina, and vowed to do life together. As I’ve said before… most guys get a beer on their 21st birthday. But I got Tiffani. And I KNOW I got the better deal!
Since then, our vows to each other have been put to the test, and even severely challenged more than a few times. But as she and I each chose many years ago to follow Christ, HE has walked with us through each and every marital fire, one by one. Jesus has given us grace to learn from our mistakes and bad life choices, and mercy to recover from even the deepest injuries we’ve inflicted upon each other along the way.
We have learned a lot more about how to fight the problems together, instead of fighting each other. That doesn’t mean we never disagree, and we certainly haven’t overcome every single issue that attacks marriages. But 30 years of history have helped us to understand that disagreements never again need to shake our marital foundations like they once did. We have built security and trust on the foundation that Christ gave to us.
And because of the messes we’ve made in the past, the Lord gave us what we call a “Life Verse” for our marriage… Isaiah 43:18-19 says this… “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” God gave this scripture to Tiffani during a ladies’ retreat in late 2011, and He has MORE than fulfilled this promise in our marriage over and over again!
I am beyond grateful to God that I’ve gotten to share 32 years of my life with Tiffani. And as long as God is willing, I pray He’ll give us a bunch more years together. I love the adventure of marriage… it’s a whole lot of routine “sameness”, interspersed with random moments of hair-raising craziness. The thing that makes the adventure worthwhile is getting to live it with my best friend beside me. There is no greater prize on earth than getting to watch my wife and children grow and mature alongside me, as I do the same myself.
Today, after I get off work, the two of us will be sharing a simple celebration most likely consisting of a quiet dinner out followed by coffee and a walk under the stars. But in just under 3 weeks from today, we’ll be leaving the kids home to tend the farm while we drive off for the honeymoon we never got as young marrieds. Please take a few minutes to read all about our plans in my post called “Getting Away Together“. And perhaps a few weeks after we return, I’ll write about all the fun stuff we did together! (Well, uh…er… that is… at least MOST of the fun stuff!)
Finally, to my gorgeous bride… Tiffani, you will ALWAYS be “The Most Beautiful Woman In The World!” And I love you the mostest!
May your marriage be wrapped in the peace of Christ!