the greatest of these

Look at those kids. They had no idea what was coming. Perhaps they thought they knew what love was. After all, they had seen the movies, read the books, listened to the love songs and had even just expressed love and vows before God, family and friends. I can still feel the heat and humidity of that August night in 2002. Honestly, who has an outdoor reception in August? That alone should have told us we weren’t ready to be married! But the journey had begun. The knot had been tied. And I guess we should have known it would be atypical by the fact that on our wedding night we drove to Orlando with one of my best friends and his 3-year-old through the night. But did we have any clue…? No. There’s no way.

Did we any idea that in twenty years we would have lived in four different states, ten different homes and apartments and have owned eight different sub-par automobiles? Did we know our family would grow from two to six through one private adoption, two failed pregnancies, one miraculous birth and a ninety day temporary foster placement? Did we have any clue that after seventeen years of pursuing success in the same direction that we would all of a sudden be faced with having to find new careers because we started to see how love could be defined differently for all people? There’s no way. I mean look at those innocent smiles.

And I’m sure we didn’t know about all the times of stress headed our direction. We didn’t know about the journey of stepping into careers that never seemed to pay me enough and often relied on our ability to handle crushing debt. There’s no way we had any idea about the emotional and physical toll that an infertility journey would take on our relationship and our faith journeys. And there’s no way we could have foreseen the conversations that happened behind closed doors where others sought to convince us of God’s will for our career paths and decisions because they weren’t comfortable with the grace that we were expressing for others.

But man has it been an adventure. We’ve swam in Caribbean waters together, drunk from Hawaiian coconuts, got in a cage with live cheetahs and repelled off the sides of mountains. We attempted snow-boarding in Colorado, biked around Mackinac Island, ziplined over a canyon in Guatemala and were even convinced of aliens in Marfa, TX. We’ve sung Sweet Caroline in Fenway Park, nearly sweated to death in Central Park and the journey even commenced in a Civil War Battlefield Park. And yet, my favorite road trip partner is and will always be you. Whether it’s driving in the dark on I-16 in Georgia, Interstate 75 between Michigan and home, Interstate 20 through parts of Texas and the deep south or the most familiar stretch of 24, I still love having you ride shotgun. And I didn’t even get to mention all the beautiful and amazing people we’ve come to love in Rossville, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Yulee, Flint, Odessa, Nashville and more. It’s been one heck of an ride.

And now here we are. Twenty Valentines Days later. And I think I can now say I know what love is. Love is…waking and my first thought being of you. Drifting off and my last thought being of you. Getting excited every time I see your name and image pop up on my caller ID. Still finding silly ways to flirt in front of the kids and knowing that if they ever understood innuendo they would be mortified. Thinking of little gifts or ways to make you feel valued throughout the day…even if it’s just making the bed. (Writing a blog post because it’s a pandemic and going out would be insanely irresponsible). Getting to see you journey in whatever way you need to, for however long you need to and assuredly walking step in step the whole way…this is what those two kids smiling in the picture had in store. I guess this is love. You never seek to define the other person, but you always define your life by them. Happy Valentine’s Day Crystal. Thanks for helping me write the best love story ever.

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