That's the kind of milestone that other people hit in their marriages--people who are, you know, kind of old. ;-)
It's unbelievable really, but the calendar tells me that Jeff and I have actually reached that milestone. And yes, it blows my mind. But I was there ;-), so I can vouch for the fact that indeed, twenty amazing years ago, this guy...
...and this girl...
...decided to leap off the cliff of singlehood and splash down into the lake of delight called matrimony.
As I think back over the years, countless memories come to my mind--almost all of them full of joy, but a few tinged with aching. In honor of the occasion, here are 20 of the moments that stand out in my mind with particular brightness.
1. Our baptism in the Bonita, California backyard of our dear friends Joe and Carolyn--such a significant step in our spiritual journey together!
2. Our early-in-marriage get-away in which we learned the disadvantages of spontaneity--namely, our inability to procure a hotel room in a sold-out town and our subsequent plan to camp in a nearby campground...only to be awakened very early in the morning by the sound of a train that was so close, it sounded like it was coming through our tent. That's one of the most dramatic wake-up calls we've experienced! ;-)
3. Our dinner date in a fancy restaurant at the top of a skyscraper in downtown San Diego, Jeff in a tuxedo and me in a formal gown.
4. Our stays in bed-and-breakfast inns and beautiful hotels in various places--it's impossible to choose just one, but I'll simply mention the inn in Coronado (not the Hotel Del Coronado, but the other one, across the street from it, which is much smaller and less impressive than the Hotel Del from the outside but had perhaps the most beautiful room I've ever stayed in on the inside).
5. The morning of January 1, 2000, when Jeff suddenly announced that he was ready for us to have a baby--two and a half years earlier than we originally intended!! (I won't take the time to tell the tale now; but as it turned out, God apparently thought our original "let's wait five years to have a baby" plan was a good one, because despite our best efforts to speed things up, Josiah was born five years and six days after our wedding!) :)
6. The conversation with Martin & Carmen and Joe & Carolyn in the little courtyard of the Boys & Girls Club in Chula Vista when they asked us to serve in the ministry full-time--such excitement!! I even remember what shoes I was wearing. ;-)
7. A sermon Jeff preached in Chula Vista that made my jaw drop and left me IN AWE of the man of God that he is and the call God has put on him...I still feel this way when he preaches.
8. The birth of Josiah
9. The call from Jordan M., asking us to move to Israel.
10. Our seventh anniversary, when we got to fulfill a long-held dream of mine and stay at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem...a magical time.
11. Our trip to the Galilee in March of 2005, in honor of our last get-away as a family of three...especially visiting Gamla and seeing with my own eyes the ancient synagogue where Jeff especially prayed that God would give me to him as his bride.
12. The birth of David
13. The last night we spent in Israel, sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor in our bare apartment...and feeling such anticipation about what the future held in Virginia.
14. The birth of Tobin
15. The birth of Shav
16. The birth of Moriah
17. The vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in September of 2012--the only time we got to experience a stay there at my all-time favorite vacation spot, with both my parents and Jeff's mom and all our kids (that were born at the time!).
18. Pinning his badge on Jeff as he completed his training and was sworn in as an auxiliary officer
19. The birth of Benjamin
20. The night Jeff hid my Klondike bars and acted completely innocent about it. ;-)
Ah, so many more memories I could have shared!
But now, here we are in this phase of life, rich in the simple pleasures of a man and a woman who love each other deeply, love their children with fervent admiration, and love their God with endless devotion. As we exchange amused glances at something the kids have said or done, as we watch each other across the room in social settings, as we work together to open our home to others and make it a place where spiritual growth happens, as we sit together to see our children perform, as we tackle household or gardening tasks together, as we dream about the future, I am reminded, time and time again, of the absolutely marvelous gift that Jeff has been to me. I am so undeserving.
On the one hand, it seems like a lot; but on the other hand, it is, by God's grace, only the beginning. Because even though 20 years can hold an enormous amount of love, the geyser of love for Jeff in my heart isn't anywhere close to stopping.
As a prayer of gratitude wells up within me for the past 20 years, I whisper my longing, "Please, God, 20 more years. And after that, 20 more..."