20 Years

Nervous.  Excited.  Ready.  Terrified.  Worried.  Elated.  Tired from lack of sleep.

Just some of the things I was feeling this morning 20 years ago.  The day had arrived.  Just days after my 21st birthday.  The day we would become Mr & Mrs Chris Malone.  The day Mary would lay aside her name and take mine.  The day we would become man and wife.  The day we would be joined in God’s eyes as one.  The day we would become one physically for the first time.  The day we would stand before our family and friends and declare our covenant with one another.  A covenant that would never be broken.

She was 19 years old.  I was 21 (just barely).  We were kids.  We said we loved each other, but looking back from 20 years of life together, we had no idea was love even was.  When we said we would stay for rich or poor, better or worse, sickness or health…we had no idea.  We made the promise without knowing the details.  And isn’t it God’s way (maybe even protection) that we don’t know the whole story all at one time?  We’ve had plenty.  We’ve had nothing.  We’ve had great times.  We’ve had not so great times.  We’ve known health.  And in the last several years, we’ve known a lot of sickness (with the kids).  We’ve experienced what is known as LIFE with all it’s turns.  But we’ve experienced it together.   I firmly believe that neither of us could have made it through what we’ve experienced independently of each other.

When God brought us together He already knew what our days would hold.  He knew the emotions we would experience the first time we knew physical intimacy.  He knew how hard those first years together can be as we sorted through the voluminous baggage that we both carried into our marriage.  He knew the amazing miracle we would experience when Blake, our first-born, was born.  He knew how terribly difficult it would be for us to be parents at such a young age.  He knew the excitement we would have at every “first” as Blake grew.  He knew that when Blake was only 9 months old, we would be surprised with the news that Hannah was on the way.  He knew our fear — how could we possibly make it with two kids (uhhh…yeah…we wondered that).  He knew how wonderful it would be when Hannah came and our love expanded even though we couldn’t imagine how we could possibly love another child with the same fervor we loved Blake.  He knew our grief would come at the tragedy of losing a child in the womb and the ache that is still sometimes there when we think about it.  He knew that we would face the sudden death of my dad and how I would cling to my bride like never before just to catch my next breath because the sorrow was so thick it became suffocating.  He knew that when Bethany came, she would delight us with her joyful smile and zeal for living.  He knew Seth would surprise us with his arrival and increase our ability to love and that he would fill our days with excitement and laughter.  He knew the sorrow we would feel — and the guilt we would feel for feeling that sorrow — on the day Eli was born and we learned he had Down syndrome.  He knew that we would learn to love all over again…each other, and our children.  He knew that we would yearn four more children even though it wasn’t possible.  He knew that there were millions of orphans who needed homes and He knew that He would bring those two facts together on a summer evening in Ukraine.  He knew there were at least for more treasures that would become ours when we enlarged our hearts and family with Matthew, Micah, Eliana and Ethan.  He knew about the wonderfully joyful days.  He knew about the days when you just try to make it to the end so you can crawl in bed.

If we had known that when we said those two simple words — “I DO” — that we were saying I do to ALL that has happened in the last 20 years would we have done it?  I can’t really answer for the kids who walked down the aisle at 2:00 p.m. that day 20 years ago.  But I can answer as the 41 year old man who more madly in love with the bride of his youth than ever.  I would absolutely say I DO all over again — even knowing (or maybe especially knowing) everything that I know now.

Mary, you are one in a million.  You are the light of my life here on earth.  You are the only one that makes me catch my breath.  The only one my body yearns for.  The only one that can make my heart skip a beat.  The only one I think of telling when my life seems to spinning out of control.  The only one that I want to share my joy with.  You are my one and my only love.

We look back at the last 20 years and shake our head at what all has happened and has been accomplished.  We look forward — wondering what tomorrow will be like.  We look forward to 20 years from now and what all will have happened.  I can’t even imagine what God has planned.  But I do know this…  Together, we face whatever it is.  Challenge or joy.  Together we march arm in arm in God’s perfect plan.  Trusting Him and each other.

I love you.