1. God does not always deliver his will for you in a neat and tidy package. When I met Andy, we both carried suitcases large enough to tour Europe for a year filled with dirty laundry. We married against the best advice from the wisest and dearest of friends. There was a lot of laundering and ironing to do to before we could lose those suitcases. We had two marriages, broken relationships, 3 kids and combined histories of dysfunction. I could see why some screamed, "HOLD ON!" I am glad we did not listen. Looking back, almost every step of our journey seems ordained by God.
2. Real men don't leave. No matter how many times we subconsciously tell them to. No matter how many times we try to inadvertently push them away. No many how many times we think they will because others did. No matter how challenging things get. Andy has never once mentioned the "L" word.
3. Real men love God. Not just go to church on Sunday. Not just read the Bible or say they love God. Real men LIVE God. Real men consider how Jesus would handle things in every situation. Real men live life like Jesus walks with them in every step. Real men make mistakes, admit them and they seek God's forgiveness, direction and purpose.
4. Be careful when you say, "In Sickness & In Health". Because you may just have to mean it. I have changed significantly since becoming ill in 2007. I am not even close to who I was pre-illness. In some ways that is a good thing. My soul has evolved, but my body fails me often. There have been countless hospital stays, emergency room visits, tests, prednisone freak-outs, immense weight gain and depression from chronic illness. Andy has never complained about the countless tasks that have fallen on his shoulders because of this. Andy has never dismissed my feelings of frustration and has listened to my complaints without the slightest hint of annoyance. I don't think the author of the traditional wedding vows meant the flu or a cold when he wrote, "In sickness and in health". Anyone can make it through the flu, colds and broken limbs. It takes a trooper to endure chronic health issues in a spouse.
5. Be careful when you say, "For Better or For Worse". Because you will most definitely need to mean it. Have you ever had to live with a woman with P.M.S. on steroids? Enough said. Andy's cool head prevails, always. I was raised amidst very hot tempers and sport one of my own. The expression "cool head" never really even registered with me. If you get upset, if you feel stepped on, attack first, ask questions later. Andy wrote the book on a "cool head". I still have a lot to learn in this area.
6. When co-parenting, teamwork is everything. Andy and I share four daughters. They are getting older now and can do many things for themselves, which makes life easier. It is still a juggling act getting them to and from here and there. Homework time can be a daunting task. But when there was a time when they were 11, 4, 2 and 6 months, there were days when I thought it was quite possible I might lose my mind. Andy didn't just know how to change a diaper, he could bathe, dress, snap, buckle, comfort and put to sleep two of them at a time and barely break a sweat. He has been like that since we've been together. There is no task that does not fall into the category of, "that's not my job". And when you share in all the necessary tasks of raising children, both big and small, it makes the seemingly unmanageable seem manageable. It feels great when we can accomplish an area of parenting that ends with a high-five and a knowledge that we are a great team.
7. Pride hath no place in marriage. And I don't really mean put it aside, I mean bury it. Pride is not important. Pride gets in our way. Pride causes arguments. Pride does not allow us to to effectively solve arguments. Pride gets in the way of forgiveness. Pride is a five letter word that should not hide in our hearts. Pride is the root of destruction. Don't believe me, build your house on it and watch it crumble brick by brick.
8. Selfishness is an Express Lane to Misery. Selflessness is an Express Lane to Fulfillment. I call Andy the King of Selflessness. When I discuss marriage, I will tell people first-off that considering your feelings first regularly is selfish and selfishness will earn you a divorce certificate. It might be as small as using the last of the milk without asking if your husband wants any. Those little things add up and leave your spouse scratching their head wondering why you never consider their feelings. The Bible doesn't support this line of thinking. Andy will not only ask me if I want the last sip of milk, he will offer to buy another gallon at 9 o'clock at night. His attitude and efforts in this area have caused me to question how often I think about pleasing myself -vs- how often I seek to please him.
Today, before Andy left, he thanked me for marrying him and I told him that I have never regretted doing so because he has proved himself to be the husband I knew he would be. Not perfect, but amazing.
Andy, thank you for blessing me by your example and companionship. Your love of God is evident in the life you lead, the father you are and the husband you have been to me. Thank you for the lessons I have learned in this journey with you. I have cherished being your student and next time, I will get the milk.