Seven years ago, you came to my birthday party. We posed for a picture on our friend’s couch–our first picture together. I had known you for about nine months, but my 28th birthday was when I really saw you for the first time–your gentle eyes, your welcoming, slightly unsure smile, your genuine spirit.
I went to treatment that summer, and when I returned in the fall, you would drive through my Starbucks on your way back to the Seminary dorms from the gym. I would vehemently bash the “money-hungry, manipulative, scheming” local gym as I handed you your coffee out the drive through window, and you would good-naturedly chuckle and wave goodbye. I thought you were sweet and cute, but you seemed too kind and wonderful for someone like me, someone wrestling a ferocious eating disorder, nagging depression, and the mind-vice of anxiety. I was someone with a million ghosts following her around, not nearly holy enough for you, a committed missionary, student of the Word, and overall wonderful guy. And yet…
I told my co-worker that I liked you while he and I were switching over the coffee urns. I imagine it was that same day that you were bargaining with God, asking Him to either give you a sign that I could possibly like you, or to take your attraction to me away entirely. Because really, when we whittle it down, we are all insecure in our own ways. While I was busy thinking that you were too good for me, you were having the same self-depreciating thoughts. You thought that I would never date anyone like you. It’s silly, isn’t it? The way we almost wrote one another off because we disliked ourselves so much?
So you had your little “once-and-for-all” with God, and I, in a not-so-holy or prayerful way, gave Justyn permission to set us up.
You were sitting at Panera when Justyn ran into you. He mentioned that I liked you, and you breathed a “thank-you” prayer to God.
We argue about who asked who out first. We made our first date arrangements through Facebook messenger. I was sitting at Solomon’s Porch, our local coffee shop beside the Seminary, and you were hanging out at the Starbucks where I worked. I said that we should get together sometime, and you said, “Great! How about Friday night?” I think that we both kind of asked each other out at the same time, but I did bring up the topic. You set the date. I think that we both get credit for setting the first date.
We went on our first date in the beginning of October, 2010, and I knew that I could marry you. Me, the girl who didn’t trust anyone, especially males. Me, the girl who up until that moment was fully in love with her eating disorder and her rigid routine, who couldn’t be disturbed by something as binding as a relationship. Me, the girl who couldn’t help but gag at the thought of holding hands with a man. Yet, there you were, the man that would change my life entirely.
You asked permission to hold my hand in November, and I said yes.
You asked permission to kiss me in December, and I said yes.
You asked permission to marry me in January, and I said yes.
My world was expanding. That seems to be what relationships do to a person–make them bigger.
Things like eating disorders are threatened by relationships, however, and mine decided to throw a curve ball. As we planned our wedding, we also planned for me to go back to treatment for a while to get back on track. Our wedding was scheduled for the end of May, and I entered treatment in mid-March. We didn’t expect for my stay in treatment to span as long as it did. Our wedding day came and went, and I remained in the hospital, much sicker than we thought that I was. Our wedding colors were silver and plum. The invitations were beautiful. Everything was ready, except for me. I was trapped. You encouraged me to stay in treatment for as long as the team felt was best, and I complied. I wanted a chance at a real life with you more than I wanted an elaborate wedding, so I fought with all of my might to heal. We knew that our marriage was not about the ceremony, but I did have to grieve the loss of my dream wedding.
I was discharged from the hospital on August 18, 2011, almost three months after our wedding had initially been scheduled, and we were wed in a courthouse in the presence of three of our very best friends on August 19th. There was no wedding party, no plum or silver decorations, and we didn’t even have any family attend. We were wed nonetheless, and I became your wife–one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
My love, our life has been so beautifully messy. Your light invaded a pretty dark story. And your light has illuminated my life so greatly that it seems that the darkness has fled. All is grace, and you are no exception, my dear. You are a picture of God’s grace. Your presence is evidence that we have a miracle-working God, and since you came into my life, I have become keenly aware of the beauty of the miraculous.
It is chaos, with two wild children, 2-5 bunnies depending on the day, two cats (to whom we are all probably allergic), and a fish that we never really signed up for. We didn’t expect for the eating disorder to rear it’s ugly head again during our first year of marriage and sweep me off to five more months of treatment, and we certainly did not anticipate diagnosis upon diagnosis that we have receive since the births of our children. We continue to, however, come out stronger and more complete as the years of obstacles pile one upon the next. As God’s gift of grace to me, you are a picture of grace as you weather these storms with courage, compassion, and wisdom.
I tried to warn you before you married me. I remember sitting in the Panera with you–the same Panera where God used Justyn to answer your ultimatum. I told you that I was a mess, and I couldn’t promise that life with me would be simple. I felt the need to give you as much of a head’s up as possible, so you could back out with complete dignity if you didn’t feel up to the challenge of me. I was shocked when you unflinchingly maintained my eye contact and assured me that you loved me and would navigate life with me, no matter what might arise. You weren’t scared of my ugly, and you didn’t run away. I never had dreamed that I was worth fighting for.
You haven’t run away, and frankly, I am still shocked. I never ventured to hope that my life could be as rich and meaningful as it is today, only seven years after that birthday party where we had our first picture taken together.