Fifteen years ago today Tonya and I stood in her home church and got married. If I have never done anything else right in my life, I married well. She is my best friend, my life-partner, and the mother of my children. She is a pastor’s wife, a school teacher, a good daughter, and a concerned sister. Proverbs 18:22 says: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” I live out the truth of that verse every day.
Here is a small sampling of the things I’ve seen Tonya do over the past fifteen years:
-play the roles of interior designer, decorator, and painter
-prepare annual Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for my entire family
-from her position in the passenger’s seat of the car, reach around to the back seat and change a diaper, while I was driving us down the interstate at about 65 m.p.h. (still one of my fondest memories of her)
-teach me the fine art of how to navigate your way around a computer
-doggedly work in Vacation Bible Schools until she was ready to drop
-organize vacations for us and her entire family
-spell me from getting out in the snow and taking the boys sledding, even though she hates sledding
-spend untold hours sitting in church nurseries while all of us other adults enjoyed ourselves in sanctuaries
-get under a lawnmower and clean out the grass while I held the thing up on its back wheels
-scan over the Sunday paper, carefully looking for coupons that might save us a grand total of $1.75 on our next trip to the grocery store
-work the chains on the sideline of middle-school football games
-run a wet-Vac to get the water out of our basement after it flooded
-go with me on visits to hospitals and homes
-do the continual summer maintenance on one of those above-ground, WalMart pools
-coach the youth-league basketball team for our oldest while I coached the one for our youngest
-play the role of listener and adviser to more people than I can begin to remember
-do without so that the boys and I could do with
Tonya and I have become one of those couples who always get talked about in tandem. It’s not “Russell” or “Tonya” anymore. It’s “Russell and Tonya.” We have become one flesh (Matthew 19:5) not only in the eyes of God but also in the eyes of the world.
What’s fascinating about that is the fact that we are opposites in so many ways. I am a night owl; she goes to bed early. I sleep late; she gets up early even when she doesn’t have to. When I get mad, I get loud; when she gets mad, she gets quiet. I hate coffee; she loves it. I sleep on my back; she sleeps on her chest. My strong subject is English; her’s is math. I like a small breakfast, a bigger lunch, and an even bigger supper; she likes a big breakfast, a lesser lunch, and a light supper.
And yet, despite all these differences, we are “one.” Anyone who knows us will tell you that we function as a team. I play my role in the marriage and she plays her’s. After fifteen years, we pretty much have the roles down pat. She knows me better than anybody and I know her better than anybody.
Tonya loves t.v. shows that I can’t stand. I’m talking about shows such as: What Not To Wear; Top Chef; She’s Got The Look; House Hunters; Project Runway; America’s Next Top Model; Divine Design; and Decorating Cents. She doesn’t listen to a lot of music, but when she does it’s 80’s stuff. Her favorite vacation is lying by a pool for hours in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As near as I can tell, her favorite movie is anything with Kevin Bacon in it.
She’s an obsessive planner and organizer who really can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t plan and organize. When she laughs, it’s a big, loud laugh. She doesn’t like to get up on the first alarm; she’s a snooze-button kind of person. Whenever she starts off a sentence with the words, “Well, darling…” I know I’m about to get hit with pure, unfiltered sarcasm. I long ago gave up on taking her shopping for clothes. She’ll spend hours looking and trying on but not buy anything.
Marriage counselors talk about something called “the empty- nest syndrome.” After a couple’s kids have all grown up and left the house, the couple can have trouble reconnecting as man and wife. Their lives have been dominated by child-rearing for so long that they’ve forgotten how to be sweethearts. I assure you, Tonya and I won’t have this problem. As much as we love our two boys and want the best for them, we understand the great benefits that are going to come with being “empty-nesters.” Think of the extra money that won’t have to be spent on groceries. Think of getting to eat out and not have to ask, “Do you have a children’s menu?” Think of the intimate vacations for two. Think of getting a house clean and being able to keep it clean. Think of the closet space!
And so, honey, on this 25th day of June, 2009, I wish you the happiest of anniversaries. I’d like to be boarding a flight for Hawaii this afternoon, with brand new wardrobes in tow and an unlimited supply of cash in our pockets. But you know as well as I do where we’ll be: Ryan has a scrimmage game at 6:00 and Royce has practice at 6:30. I’ll be at one field and you’ll be at the other one. We’ll all eat supper at home before we leave, and we’ll all be wiped out when we get back home. Even if you and I tried to plan something for tomorrow night, Royce has a game at 6:45. Somehow, I really can’t see us having much of a problem with “empty-nest syndrome.” I think we’ll be much more susceptible to pushing them out of the nest prematurely. I wonder if that’s a syndrome.
Anyway, never doubt that I love you. When we got married, I loved you with the kind of love that comes out of several years of on-again-off-again dating. It was real, but it was immature. Now I love you with the kind of love that comes out of fifteen years of walking through life together, experiencing its highs and lows, ups and downs, and good and bad (much more highs, ups, and good). I can truthfully say that I love you more today than I ever have, and that’s as good as can be done so many years into a marriage. I don’t know what God has in store for us in the future, but I can believe nothing else but that our next fifteen years will be even better than our first fifteen. I do know that I don’t want to spend them with anyone but you.