(I read this at our wedding vow renewal ceremony on October 13, 2017.)
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18
I often quote this verse in jest when DJ loses his keys or the glasses he now has to remove to read anything or put them back on again, or take them back off. He asks “Where are my keys? Where are my glasses?” And I pull myself up to my full five foot two and ask “What would you do without me? See? Even God knows you can’t be alone. He wrote it in His Book.” I joke, but I know it’s as true for me as it is for DJ. I have also found in this verse affirmation that I am the perfect wife. For DJ. Listen again: “I will make him a helper fit for him.” Fit for him. I think over the years I’ve learned how to be a wife fit for DJ, just as he’s adjusted himself to take care of me. He does things for me that maybe other women don’t need their husbands to do. He knows what to say to make me feel better when I’m down. He knows how I react (or don’t react) when a crisis arises. And he knows my triggers. “If I said that, you’d blast me.” Yes, you’re right, I would. Because he knows me. And the amazing part, he loves me anyway. And isn’t that just like God with us? He knows it all, good, bad, and grotesque and He loves us, Adores us, anyway. That’s looking with love on another person. That’s grace. DJ, thank you for showing me grace.
Paul said: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situations, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12
This Scripture applies to marriage, too. Together we can weather the storms of life when we draw strength from Jesus.
My friend Diana asked me what I was preparing for tonight. I said I wasn’t exactly writing my vows, I was more like summing up our life together. Briefly. She asked me how I was going to be brief about summing up 23 years and three kids. I tossed “brief” out the window and promised I would try to be entertaining and throw in a dash of mild hysteria. Welcome to our life.
I’ve never been to a wedding vow renewal ceremony, but I always knew I wanted to do it someday. When I broached the subject over the summer, DJ asked me a common question–why now? “It’s only been 23 years. I thought we’d wait until our 25th anniversary.” When I asked “Why wait?” he didn’t really have a good answer, so I won, and here we are.
I was also thinking about how broken relationships seem to get so much air time and healthy ones, well, maybe they’re not as interesting? Or we take them for granted? Like “yeah, mom and dad and mom and dad have been together forever, and. . .?” Well, it’s a wonderful thing! And all those wonderful things should be celebrated. So let’s do that tonight. Like the apostle Paul said in Philipians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy,think about such things.” That’s what we’re doing here.
More than anything, I see tonight as a time to just stop and breathe. A time to stop and say, “Hey, look at how God has been faithful to us.” A time to reflect with gratitude on His goodness. A time to say Thank You to Him and to all of you for being here and supporting us on this journey.
So I decided since this was a ceremony with which I have no experience, I hopped on Pinterest for some ideas. Some people go out and buy new dresses. Some buy new rings. Some even take a second honeymoon. Even if we could afford to do those things, they seem like they would detract from the purpose of the vow renewal ceremony–the actual renewing of the vows. Having said that, I would not be offended if we did this again in twenty years at our Tuscan villa. You’re all invited to that one, too.
But this one is streamlined, without the frills. I remember when DJ and I were dating and something difficult came up, I can’t remember what it was, but I remember my mom saying that “The only thing that matters is what you two say to each other.” There was a lot of wisdom in that; that’s probably why I remember it even now. To me that’s the point of this–what we are saying to each other. It’s what we said 23 years ago, but to me it means even more today because we’ve got some life under our belt and we are still saying “yes” to each other.
When we got married twenty-three years ago, in front of about two hundred people, without knowing what the future would hold, we made promises to each other. Then we walked out of the church and started our life together. DJ got a job at EHS Engineering. I got a job teaching preschool at St. Thomas School. We started to understand “plenty” and “want.” Then, at different times, we both contracted Lyme disease. God saw us safely through it. And then one night DJ ended up on the floor in excruciating pain because he had thrown his back out. I could have sworn I saw angels attending him in the back of the ambulance. Thankfully, that was the only time in 23 years, we’ve had to call the ambulance to our house. We learned about “sickness” and “health.”
We had Tim. It was then, when we became parents, that we began to get the slightest inkling of God’s immense love for His children. If we as flawed humans, could love this little blonde-headed bundle so intensely, how deep and far and wide must be the Father’s love for His children?
In 1998, we had the house fire. God protected us by keeping us safe at Scot and Ginny’s picnic until we got the call from my sister. I crumbled, but I remember DJ holding it together pretty well. It’s pretty cool the way God doesn’t often have both of us losing our minds at the same time. Kinda works out, you know? Good thing because it was another lesson in “plenty” and “want” and displacement.
We lived with Jan and Darry for a year and a half and Darry and a crew of angels helped us build a house bigger and better than before, and I just loved it. I loved it so much, we had another kid. David came along and blessed us with his imagination and blessed Tim with a brother. Thanks for filling the position, Dave. I believe you’re the right guy for the job. I’m sure Tim would agree.
I left teaching full-time after the fire. DJ switched jobs a time or two–or ten–I’m terrible with numbers. He served in the Navy. That was a little scary, but God kept him safe there for us, and that herniated disc kept him out of active duty and good thing, too, because along came the beautiful baby girl he had pictured filling in that empty space next to the boys in the Sears photo. It was time to add a room to the house but it was dwarfed by the room in our hearts taken up by our three children. Remember how the Grinch’s heart burst out of that gold frame and nearly exploded out of his chest? PING! Yeah, it was like that! Still is. Goodness, when I hear these kids together, laughing, playing music, goofing–it doesn’t get any better. And that gives me hope. It reassures me that one day when we are old and senile, you three will still remember each other (so you can remind us what your names are when we are too old to remember).
We’ve seen cats, followed by fleas, a hamster, up to forty chickens followed by rats, tens of thousands of honeybees (and evidence of one greedy bear.) We’ve attended four different churches. And, Char has informed me held fifty children’s birthday parties. (Tomorrow will be fifty-one)–how many chocolate cakes is that? We’ve lost all our grandparents, but, look! We both have both of our parents. And their memories are better than mine, what does that say? AND our parents are still the originals. I’m so glad they have staying power.
It looks like we have it, too. And it’s not just because we made those promises to each other. It’s not just because I’d follow DJ’s aftershave to the grave. It’s because God knows how hard this life can be, and He helps us every day keep those promises.
VOWS TO KIDS:
We promise to always be here for you, to love you and to listen.