Wednesday, October 7, 2015

20 Years Together

I shouldn't be writing this.  Statistically, we shouldn't still be married.  That's what the guest preacher shared to the congregation at my home church that Sunday night in 1995.  Still, I sat there: pregnant, 18 years old, and unable to clearly see another path.  We had wanted to marry anyway... but don't most young pregnant couples say that?  We barely knew each other. 

"In those days" no one had cell phones.  No one had the internet in their home.  Long distance calls were very expensive.  Gas and cigarettes were the only cheap things and we lived 330 miles apart.  What we did know of each other was from a few visits, letters (the kind that are written on paper, stamped, mailed and which took three days to arrive), and long distance phone calls every few weeks from community phones. And our relationship progressed just over seven short months of time (two of which we did not speak).  Yeah.........

People still ask how we met.  A city boy from New Jersey and a country girl from North Central Arkansas?  Well...  I had a close neighbor/school friend who went to live with her grandparents our Junior year of high school.  Her (then) boyfriend had graduated that year and joined the Army.  A year later they reconnected and he came to visit her in Arkansas.  She asked him to bring a friend.  He brought his roommate "Jim" (i.e. Will Jimenez).  And we met on that day in September of 1994. 

Despite our young love and the statistics that doomed us, my church held a bridal shower for me.  One sweet church lady came to our wedding and told my mom later that she had cried-- that it had been that beautiful.  I pondered that.  She must have had hope for us.
Both of our families supported us, and we too, began to feel hopeful.  We had just turned nineteen and twenty.

After our wedding in October, we rented a small trailer (to live in) outside of the Army post.  Will was sent to Megagold five days later for a full month.  Not long after returning, we put up our first Christmas tree.  Then two months after Christmas our son was born. 

We only had one operating vehicle, which Will took to work.  Five months later, I got an evening job.  We barely saw each other, but we didn't have money to pay a sitter.  Times were hard, but we were making it.  Both sets of our parents did the best thing they could do: they left us alone and they let us make our mistakes and learn from them, while still encouraging us from the sidelines
We grew up. 
A ton. 
A year later we moved to an apartment.  I began working two part-time jobs and the baby began going to a sitter.  Eventually, I was offered a full-time position at the second job, so I quit the first one.  Will left the military and we discovered that we were pregnant again.  This time, more on purpose, but not exactly the timing we'd expected.  Will worked whatever jobs he could.  We saved every dime for when the next baby came, and at the end of that year, Will landed a job in Nashville that was somewhat steady with good pay -but with many hours.  Two months later, our second son was born.  It snowed that first day in March. 
I didn't want to put the boys into daycare, so instead of returning to my management position at Food Lion, I began babysitting, despite knowing little about children.  We moved into a rental house.  I began running a full 24 hour open daycare.  Will was commuting daily to Nashville, then driving all over TN for work.  He left by 5am and most times came home around 6 or 7pm. 

Marriage was hard.  So. Very. Hard.

Life was hard.  I was tired from all of the kids --and lonely without good friends.   I was suffering and in a rough place.  We had had to grow up so fast and were both angry most of the time now. 

Eventually, both of our jobs tapered off into places that seemed more reasonable and we were able to buy a house in a quiet neighborhood.   It looked like a good place to raise our boys, who were now five and two.  It had a basement for my daycare business, which I had now established.
We took a beach vacation. We bought an SUV.
Will still commuted to Nashville for work.  He still drove all over the TN countryside for various work, but our relationship was becoming somewhat better

I began taking the boys to church and made some friends and it was a good starting place back, but inside I felt empty still. 
Then, knowing that I could no longer have two different lives - I gave my full commitment.  If God would still have me, I would be His. 
He would. 
And He did.
Circumstances changed little.  But life changed dramatically.  Especially the way I saw it.  I was so excited.  I was twenty-six. 

I started teaching preschool and went back to college. Will was hired locally (same line of work) but we could see him more now.  Everything began looking better.
Then, in 2007, Will had a heart attack.  He was 31.  Our boys were 11 and 8 that year. 
Then we found out even crazier news: we were expecting a third child.
Now this blew us away.  We were scared.  Perplexed.  We were trying hard to be thankful.   It was strange.
I learned so much that year.  Like keeping my eyes constantly fixed on Jesus.  Amazing.  Emotional.  And exciting.  And near the end of that year our beautiful daughter was born. 

Two years later we hit rock bottom.  A deep bottom.  Hot tears.  Pain.  Frustration.  Agony.  Prayer.  Conflict.  Hanging on...barely. 
But we held.  
And we made it through that year.
And the next one...
And I fell into his strong arms.  And he kissed my head.  And we knew what we'd known deep down all along.  That if we can make it one year, we can make it two and so on and so forth and the years really do get better.  Despite the occasional hang-up years (and those do happen) we will live through the Rough.  The not-so-easy vows.  The wow -"I cannot believe we made it through"- times. 

Statistically, we really shouldn't be married.  Barely knowing each other....selfish, young, inexperienced, lost, and longing for dreams that we hardly knew then.
Yet, We Are.
And we have been....7,300 days.
Because with GOD all things are possible!

And I love him deeper than I ever dreamed possible.  Because that is what God can do through two people who are committed to seeing it through each year......(or sometimes just each day)!
We look forward to our future together, watching our children grow, sharing our time and love together, learning new things, and experiencing the joy and triumph of this LOVE.

And we look forward to being amazed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015