Tuesday, December 20

A story of grace (and happy, happy anniversary #13)

Back when I was in college, I traveled for two summers representing Northland at churches and schools, and we'd stay with families overnight. I am TERRIBLE at making small talk, so I had a few questions prepared to avoid awkward silences. And, I used to ask the people who'd been married for many years the secret to a happy and long marriage. Often, I got these answers: 

Have a sense of humor, and laugh together a lot. 

Put the other person's happiness above your own. 

Be quick to forgive.

Stay committed. 

I tucked those words away for later - expecting, perhaps, MUCH later.

It was a series of Very Providential Events. It was Spring of my senior year of college, and I had a very exciting prospect for employment after graduation. I was going to be a world traveling adventurous woman. I was deep into the process of going to Vienna, Austria to teach music in an international school. However, God orchestrated a halt to that process, and I ended up with no teaching job. An offer of employment at Northland in the Admissions department presented itself, with room and board paid, and additional options to take free classes, and I agreed. 

I ended up with a roommate from Colorado, Autumn! I was very excited to be staying with her, and we had so much fun. Most of the people I'd known closely had graduated and left. But two of my closer friends remained, friends I'd traveled with two different summers, Tim and Andrew. They lived off campus with two other guys who were all in their senior year. We all went to the same church, and I knew Jim from music ed classes and Michael from church, and around campus. Tim's fiance Sarah was a dorm student, and my roommate Autumn had grown up with Michael in Colorado, so the three of us girls found ourselves over at the guys' house pretty often on the weekends, along with a huge group of other friends looking for a non-dorm place to hang out, eat, watch movies, do laundry, etc. 

Tim and a few others planned a road trip with a van full of friends to visit a former professor who had moved to Iowa, and I was invited along. I sat next to Michael the entire time and we chatted about a LOT of basics - just getting to know each other, family backgrounds, likes and dislikes, and it was pretty fun! I knew at this point that Michael was a great guy that I wanted to be better friends with for sure. We laughed a lot.

When we got back, I was approached about auditioning for a play. I remember I was nervous about taking the role because the director had told me that I'd be working a lot with the main actor - and that guy was none other than Michael Muth! I remember wrestling with the decision (which seems so so silly now) because I didn't want to manipulate circumstances to my advantage in order to get to know him better. It was serious stuff back then. But I did take the role, as HIS MOM. So funny now. We did have a LOT of rehearsals, much of the play was dialogue that involved the two of us. Many rehearsals with just us and the director, and it was great to work together. We did definitely get to know each other better!  

After the play, we kept hanging out with the group of friends, including Tim and Andrew, who, unbeknownst to me, were trying to work magic and wizardry to bring the two of us together! So, winter came and we went to our respective homes for 5 weeks of Christmas break, having exchanged email addresses. We kept in touch almost every day that break, and when we returned to campus mid-January, I expected to see him a little bit more, but he took his time and stayed away. (I admit, I was a little confused but trying super hard to be cool about it!)

In February, we had a talk. He apologized for his silence and said he'd like to keep going with our friendship which of course I was excited about, although a bit confused why the this was such a "big talk." He asked me to go with him to a concert, and I accepted. I told Autumn about it when I got back to our room and she was almost more excited than I was! She said "this is a VERY big deal" and she, knowing Michael, was right. I didn't know until much later that I was the first girl that Michael had ever asked out on any type of date. Not because he was socially awkward, ha! And it definitely wasn't a lack of interest from girls toward him (oh the stories I could tell!). It was because, growing up as one of six siblings, he had watched a lot of broken hearts happen and he'd decided on his own as a young teen not to date casually. He thought this would be a good way to not build up expectations and avoid heartache. So the asking was more of a commitment than I knew - which was probably a very good thing - I am not good under pressure! I kind of treated it like a casual date!

Fast forward to April, and Michael was driving me back to campus - I was teaching him to drive stick shift in my Mazda and - the conversation went something like, "I think we've been dating for awhile..." and much laughter. We had some serious discussions several times after that about marriage, and timing - he mentioned an October wedding and I panicked a little - OK a lot - and said MAYBE December (I had always wanted a Christmas wedding). I invited him home with me for Spring Break, and we told my parents that we were in it for the long haul. We were engaged on my birthday in August and set the date - December 20! Less than a year after our first official date. 

And 13 years ago today, as I read my vows, I thought I was head over heels in love, as in love as I'd ever be. And boy was I wrong.

It was just the tip of the (glorious) iceberg.

Michael makes it easy to follow those bits of advice from long-married couples. He is so easy to laugh with; life is never dull. His unselfish service to our family makes it easy to want to make his happiness a priority. We wrote our own vows and as I watched our wedding DVD again, I was impressed with his maturity as a 23 year old, promising in front of God and everyone that he would leave no option for divorce. You don't often hear the word "divorce" at a wedding, but he went there!!  I definitely got the best husband and the most perfect one for me. I am continuously out-loved and out-served. I keep trying, but he always wins!

And I say it's Michael, but it's really GOD, and His blessing of grace. He gives the grace to sustain us, on the hard days, through the storms, through the real life struggles of frustration with each other and parenting these four kids - we have been given, and schedules and ministry and finances and oops I forgot to do that again and breakdowns in many categories - emotional, mental and physical. God's grace is what keeps us going, and keeps us growing more deeply in love. He holds us together, with the same power He uses to hold the world together. And that is a humbling realization. We point to Him in awe.

So. On this day - Happy Anniversary to us! Glad to be standing together for 13 years! Amazing. I'm so overwhelmed with thankfulness. Here's to celebrating as many anniversaries as we are given!! (I not-so-secretly hope it's at least 60 more!)