“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and the earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11
It has been 15 years of marriage. And while I could wax poetic about marriage and all that is has meant for me and for us, people who hear the story of how we met and got married are usually very amused.
Andy met my friend’s finance while living in Kansas after getting out of the Air Force. He had been encouraged by the church movement he was a part of to participate in church planting and ministry, so by the time our friends were getting married, he had sold everything he owned that would not fit into his Honda Civic and moved to Minot, North Dakota, to work at a Bible Camp and help with a small church that was just getting started. At this point, he had lived on his own for a decade while I was living at home, helping my newly adopted sisters settle in.
My friend and her fiancé had told me about a guy they wanted me to meet. All I could get out of them was that he was ‘serious about the Lord and had a servant’s heart.’ I do remember his giving Andy credit for getting him ‘back into the Word’.
They called Andy to invite him to the wedding. Andy, having no job and no place to live at the time, was understandably hesitant to commit. But, they offered to buy his place ticket, so Andy agreed. Then my friend got on the phone and said, “There’s a girl we want you to meet!”
Fast-forward a few months. I was helping my friend with the wedding and making the wedding cake (a beautiful labor of love, if I do say so myself!), so I came to the rehearsal dinner. I knew Andy was going to be there, and sure enough, when I walked in, there was some short guy in jeans and a white t-shirt (that’s what he claims he was wearing; I say it was a white UNDERSHIRT!) with strange glasses and mutton-chop sideburns, and I promptly avoided him for the rest of the night. This guy in jeans and hiking boots was not my idea of anything I would be interested in, especially coming from a very prim and proper upper-middle-class family. To be fair, he felt the same was about me. I rearranged the seating at the restaurant after the rehearsal so I wouldn’t have to sit by him. I figured if I could just make it through the wedding and reception without talking to him, this would all blow over.
All I remember of the wedding (on October 12, 2002) that involved Andy, was his directing the congregational singing during the ceremony, something we still make fun of since all his years in marching band caused exaggerated arm movements! He also did not eat the wedding cake that I labored over and was so proud of. I deftly avoided him for the reception, even making a friend sit in the seat next to him so I would not have to actually meet him. I had heard he was planning to visit some other friends out of town and attend church with them the next day, so I thought that was the last I’d ever see of this strange guy from a state no one would actually live in.
But then he showed up at church. His plans with friends had fallen through (something to do with a nearly-term, high-risk pregnancy), and he was there. Mind you, our church was nearly 50 people that day, so not exactly easy to hide in over the 3 hours that the service took. I was trapped in the seat behind him and had no escape when he turned around after the service, introduced himself and shook my hand. I thought that would be the end of things.
But no. Andy got my address from my friends and wrote me a letter. Yes, a hand-written, 7-page letter. It was intercepted at the mailbox, and my parents read it first (without boring you, I grew up in a slightly unusual Christian sub-culture where this was normal). They told me that he had written and allowed me to read the letter, then my Dad wrote him back. (If you are developing some sympathy for Andy right now, just wait…). This developed into a 3-month multi-letter correspondence and one phone call. With my Dad.
Andy came for a visit in January, 2003. Yes, he flew from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. to visit a girl he had only introduced himself to, felt no attraction for, and knew very little about. At least, he thought he was visiting me. In reality, he got to visit our family. Within the rules of 'courtship', we were allowed no unsupervised time together, so much so that my little sisters thought he had come to visit them! Andy spent four days with us, then left for North Dakota. By the end of that visit, we had pretty much decided that we would end up getting married.
To this day, I can only attribute that decision to the grace of God. The things that drew us together, our conservative beliefs and dedication to the church movement we were a part of, have not been true for over half of our marriage now.
At this point, we were allowed to continue writing letters (that were pre-read by my parents) and to talk on the phone for 30 minutes each week. Yes, I was 22 and he was 27. No other contact was allowed. Andy surprised me with a visit in March because I had told him that ‘nothing every surprised me.’ We spent another 4 days, well-chaperoned, together. My family traveled in April out to North Dakota. We met Andy in Minot, North Dakota, and our first morning there, he proposed. Over a picnic breakfast at 5am. On the prairie. Very romantic. Later that day I met his mom and sister. We spent another few days at the camp where he worked along with my entire family.
After our engagement, we were allowed an hour on the phone every week! He visited again in June for a week to work on wedding plans. I have over 100 hand-written letters from him over the course of our engagement. When you can’t email or talk on the phone, you write.
Then we didn’t see each other again until 3 days before our wedding in October. When I also met his brother for the first time. At this point, we had spent approximately 22 days in each other’s company over the course of a year while living 1,500 miles apart. We managed to get married. And have our first kiss. At the altar. (I think our honeymoon also counts as our first 'date' since we had never even eaten a meal with just each other's company.)
Almost 15 years later, we are still married. With 4 kids. Living in Africa. Nothing has been normal about our lives.
Yes, it’s weird. But there is something special about having a story that is all our own and is unique enough that we have to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over our lives. To Him be the glory, and may He receive any praise for what He has done through us.