We met on my very first day on campus at the college we attended; in fact, it was just moments after I stepped out of my car to attend an introduction to college camp a few weeks before the start of my freshman year. Jeff was a junior, and a camp counselor and resident assistant, and he likes to say that, as he was checking me into camp, he was also "checking me out!"
The furthest thing from my mind was anything approaching an "Mrs. degree." I believed I was on track to pursue veterinary medicine, and I'd often verbalized the notion that, "if" I got married, it would be well into the future. But God had much different plans - for which I'm very grateful! - and we began dating a little over a year after we met...after Jeff's roommates had faithfully done their part to pray me into the Kingdom first so we'd be "equally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6.14). And then - three years later and one year after Jeff had graduated and gotten his first job - we were married by the associate pastor of the little church we'd attended through college.
A lot happens in 22 years. An admittedly non-exhaustive list of just a few significant events and circumstances includes:
- Jeff working for five different employers and now having MissionGuides, a tent-making missions ministry, besides;
- me finishing my degree (in humanities of all things!), working as a church secretary for a time, going back for my teaching license, and then teaching in public schools for nine years before giving birth to our precious Rachel and then our sweet Abigail, whom I now educate at home;
- suffering the loss (through miscarriage) of our oldest daughter, Anna Vivian, who would be 11...but also seeing God show us the truth of Jeremiah 29.11 through our tragedy;
- together visiting three countries on four different missions trips and, since 1996, me seeing Jeff off on dozens more, most of which he's led through MissionGuides;
- living in three different apartments before buying our lovely home 17 years ago;
- sharing our home with 10 wonderful feline friends over the years, including the three we now have - one of whom, Clawde Allouez, has been around for nearly 14 years and is still going strong;
- being blessed to be a part of three churches God has used in different ways to work on His goal of growing us more and more into the image of Jesus.
Of course, it's not always been easy - no marriage is. But I always remember the saying on a beautiful counted cross-stitch made as a wedding gift for us by our maid-of-honor: Love is more than a feeling; it's a commitment.
Feelings wax and wane and are all-too-often used by satan to trick couples into believing that staying married through inevitable difficulties "isn't worth it." But commitment, on the other hand, is the glue that holds us together through the low points. That's not unemotional, unromantic stoicism, as some people think; instead, it's an acknowledgment that our vows to God and each other on our wedding day trump fleeting feelings. That truth - and knowing to the depths of our beings that we're both on the same page with it - is ultimately the best way we can ever love each other.
I thank God He's given both Jeff and me the moxie and faith to counter-culturally commit to commitment. I know He's blessed our resolve and will continue to do so for His glory... until one or both of us see Jesus, by which point - if we've got some years left here - I might have been married two or even three times as long as I was not!