It was Spring Break in the year 1999. Or was it 2000? I can’t remember for sure. I know I was in college, junior year, I believe. What I remember is the Florida sun. I remember sitting next to my grandmother on my Grandparents lanai. I remember watching Chad, who was across the pool in his own world. My grandma and I were chatting about life and college and all the things that mattered in those days. But mostly, we were talking about the tall boy I had met only six months ago and who had arrived on her front step with me and was now splashing around in her pool.
I’m going to marry him, I told her as the hot Florida sun beat down on both of us.
She looked at me and smiled and as any responsible grandmother would, she cautioned me, just be careful, I don’t want you to get your heart broken.
We make so many decisions in a day. And in a lifetime? Goodness. There are days when I feel overwhelmed at the decision of what to make for diner (chicken or eggs?), or what to wear (these jeans or those jeans?), and even which way I want to begin running on a particular day (left or right?) We make countless decisions in a day and innumerable in a lifetime. Some of the decisions we make are significant (what college to attend, what do I want to study, do we want to have kids or not?). Most decisions, I would venture to say, wouldn’t even register a .01 on a “These Are Important Decisions” scale. (For the love of God, eat what you want, wear what you want and go left or right–it doesn’t really matter!)
But there is one decision that I would say is among the most, if not the most, important decision we will ever make: who will I marry?
Chad and I met during our college years when we were put on a committee together. To be completely honest, I had seen him on campus twice before just days before this committee. Even today, I can remember the very first time I saw him–walking from the place where we picked up mail toward the place where we ate meals. It was almost like there was a spotlight on him. He was wearing a red button up shirt and, while he didn’t notice me, I saw him clearly. Later that same day (or was it a few days later?), there he was again in a chapel service. I was in the balcony, he was on the floor. Again, it was as if there was a spotlight pointing toward him. It sounds crazy, I know, but this is the only way I can describe it.
Soon after, we were placed on a committee together and soon after that, we became “Chad and Summer”.
Chad and I have been officially and legally “Chad & Summer” for 20 years today. TWO DECADES. As I consider two decades together I realized that to those who are newlyweds twenty years feels like a lifetime and to those who have gone many more miles, twenty years still seems like the honeymoon. Whatever the case, twenty years is what we have and I’m so thankful.
When Chad and I began talking about marriage, we knew the direction we would head. We actually had a ten year plan. (Yes, we did.) The plan included a move out west, vocational ministry, running marathons, two dogs, and certainly, no children.
But life has a way, doesn’t it?
The two doe eyed kids who walked on our college campus, dreamily discussing our future had no idea what life would bring. No plan could have prepared us for the hardships and trials. For the amazing times and the less than amazing times. Truth be told, the two kids who walked on that college campus are nothing like the two not-so-young kids who still stand side by side today.
I tend to be a doubter, a questioner. I get antsy and ask a lot of questions. I’ve change jobs more than most change their sheets. (I’m prone to exaggeration.) More often than not, I wonder if there is “more” out there. Searching for something better, bigger, different. Questioning where I am and wondering where I should be. This is a less than desirable quality, I know. Despite this tendency, though, there is one thing I have never, ever questioned. Not even once.
I have never questioned our marriage.
I am not a hopeless romantic who would ever utter the words “you complete me”(Thank you Jerry McGuire), but I am not ashamed to say that I am better because of Chad.
When we walked on our college campus, or even when we declared “YES! FOREVER!” we had no idea what real commitment was. Filled with butterflies and hormones, it all feels so easy. As the years move on, though, the sentiments of love songs fade into something more eternal, more slowly burning. Love is expressed in cleaning the bathroom or cleaning up vomit when the kids don’t make it in time. Love is turning the seat warmer on before I get in the car. Love is taking out the trash and calling to ask, “Do you want me to bring you a coffee?” (The answer is alway yes.) Love, or at least our love, isn’t candlelit dinners and vacations to Cancun. Love, for us, is lacing up running shoes and braving the trails because he knows I love it. (Chad does all these things.)
I am not going to lie and say, ‘our marriage has been hard, but we’ve made it though!’ The truth is, despite the hard things that have happened during these twenty years, our marriage has been the soft place to fall. Through countless changes, deaths, heartaches, injuries, scary accidents, job changes, moves, everything–our marriage, specifically Chad, has been the one constant. (Read: I’m not saying perfect–I’m saying constant.)
I am thankful for these twenty years. I am thankful for two imperfect people can somehow form a “perfect-in-my-eyes” marriage. I am thankful for Chad who gives and gives and gives and then gives some more. I am thankful for the way he leads our family and paves the way for our dreams to come true. I am thankful for his support, encouragement and acceptance through all of our changes. I am thankful that we have changed together. I am thankful for this perfectly-imperfect family.
And more than anything, I am thankful that no matter the changes that come, the trials that will inevitably find us, and the ups and down we will meet. . .
I will be with you.
Here’s to many more. . .