|Taken last year at a hotel sleep-over|
Twenty seven years ago Mario and I were married in a small Methodist Church in Tracy. It was freezing cold, a dark and still Tuesday night, just four days after Christmas and one day after my birthday.
“I can’t believe you’d choose this day,” my mom teased me as we prepared for the event. “You’ve spent your whole life complaining how your birthday is swallowed up by Christmas and News Years!”
She was right – As a child (the second born of five) I always mourned the timing of my birthday. I was never forgotten, but many times I’d get “combination” greeting cards and gifts. I had done a lot of whining about my special day being swallowed up by the holidays.
The truth was, I didn’t care what day I married him. I didn’t even care that it would be happening on a Tuesday night in that holiday week. I was getting married to him – and we were expecting a baby.
It is a miracle that Mario and I survived the first five years of marriage. We both thought it would be something that it wasn’t. Neither one of us were equipped for the selfless institution that marriage is. We had “issues” – both personally and as a couple. We struggled (with four kids in tow) for that first five years.
Mario was older than I was and had already been married to Cathy, the mother of David and Joe. I hadn’t been married, but had a long term relationship with a man who was the father of Vince. Our relationships with our ex-spouses were amicable, but we both were determined not to repeat that failure again. I had seen a good marriage modeled for me by my parents, who were romantic and loving and religious. I knew that God would have to be involved – Mario took some convincing.
It was Arlaine, a family counselor that we had been seeing together, that suggested we go to church together. It was where I was radically changed and fell in love with God. The relationship with Mario came to a screeching halt until I found out I was pregnant. When I told him, he agreed we should have the baby together and “go see Arlaine”. The next day we met in her office, tearfully making a plan to salvage our relationship – it ended up being the day he asked me to marry him.
Mario was my ideal man and I was madly in love with him - determined that our marriage would succeed. He was looking for passion, holiness, a wife that he would be faithful to, but confessed to me that he was scared of failing. His history proved to him that he was selfish; my own history proved that I would hold on to a sinking ship until it drowned me. We were unequipped to succeed, as much as we loved each other.
The miracles came in a sequence of events; not all at once, but one after another. Three years into our marriage, Mario fell in love with God the same way I did. We were baptized in a river on the same day. He and I made a decision to work closely with Cathy, never speaking ill of her and praying for her (this was easy to do because she really was a sweetheart). Mario legally adopted Vince and bonded with him deeply. We went to marriage conferences, read books on communication, attended retreats, made time for one another....
If you ask us separately, we’d probably see one miracle being more powerful than another, depending on the way the wind was blowing that day. The real truth is, God held us together and sustained us during the storms and the dry seasons; there was many of each.
Today, we are best friends, private confidantes and romantic partners on a journey that doesn’t end. Today we decided to be spontaneous and be silly together.
“Hey, since it’s our anniversary, let’s play a game where we say what we love about each other. He laughed and balked at first.
“No fair, you can think faster than I can.”
“Look, it’s easy,” I said, determined to be romantic. “I’ll start. I LOVE the way you make coffee for me every morning.”
He smiled and thought. “Okay. I LOVE the way you trim my toenails.”
We laughed, and continued through a long list of things we love about each other. Some of them got very deep, but most were ordinary things that we can take for granted if we’re not careful.
At one point, Mario looked at me and said, “I love YOU. I love your personality.”
I smiled, a little embarrassed (he can still make me feel like we just met). I thanked him...because it’s true. I know every moment of every day that Mario loves me – and I know that kind of love happens very rarely.
Of all the gifts I’ve been given in this life (and there are so many) Mario is the most incredible, unexpected gift I’ve been given – and I don’t deserve him! I thank God for the way HE has shaped, protected, preserved and nurtured both of us as individuals and as a couple.
A lot of times people ask us how to have a good marriage and I try to think of what to say. The thing I’ve realized after twenty-seven years is that our own marriage has been one miracle after another. We’re not perfect people, but God has been the One who is. I can humbly say that it’s not because I’ve done something a certain way or that I’m the kind of wife that has the perfect amount of respect and love and wisdom. If I’m an expert on anything, I hope I’m one on how to be humble and turn to God for the answers.
This world doesn’t need another marriage expert – there’s already enough of those. This world needs God – the giver of life. He’s been the One who has power to breathe life into any dead or helpless situation.
Happy Anniversary, Babe. You are a miracle!