23.

SCAN0001There was a freak ice storm on the day we were married in a beautiful old Methodist church in downtown Tulsa, 23 years ago today. I was nervous about all sorts of things that day — I worried that the weather might make it more difficult for out-of-town family and friends to be there with us, I had a weird obsessive fear that I’d cut myself shaving on the morning of the wedding only to then spontaneously bleed out mid-ceremony, I was sure that I’d trip and fall over her enormous dress when escorting my bride-to-almost-be up the stairs to the altar, and I was paralyzed by the prospect of the hours of forced social interaction that a reception would surely bring — but I wasn’t nervous about actually being married. I was riddled with all of these crazy fears and yet, completely calm at the same time. All it took for the obsessions to fade, though, was the sound of the music that signaled the doors to swing open in the back of the sanctuary, where Chelli would be standing with her dad, ready to begin our journey. Wishard, the dear pastor who came out of retirement to marry us as a personal favor to my then-blonde wife and her parents, leaned over to me when the doors flung open and whispered, probably a bit louder than he intended, “well, would you look at that.”

SCAN0002In the years since, this woman has loved me often far more than I deserved, encouraged me, driven me batshit crazy, held my hand through some of life’s darkest moments, challenged me, challenged me some more, made me laugh and sometimes cry, patched together my brokenness in ways I didn’t believe possible, calmed me, infuriated me, broken my heart, and then guarded that same heart ferociously, all while helping me learn some of life’s greatest lessons. We’ve had a marriage. Not one of those “every day has been pure bliss” Instagram-filtered collaborations, but a real marriage full of love and loss and heartache and triumph and disappointment and laughter and growth. We’ve faced challenges and hardships, sometimes together and sometimes not. We’ve made mistakes and been awful to each other, but we’ve also tried to learn from each of those missteps and have made it a priority to be there to help heal any wounds we’ve inflicted.

IMG_1689This last year has had its share of soul-crushing moments. Devastating illness can strain even the best of relationships, illuminating the emotional stress fractures that often lurk just below a marriage’s surface. Somehow, though, when everything else this year seemed to be conspiring against us, the thing I was always sure of was this: us. I’m not sure why that is, why some relationships disintegrate in the midst of a shit storm and others do not, but I can tell you with all certainty and complete conviction, I have never loved her more than I do right this very minute. I love her with my whole heart and all of my beautiful brokenness, simply because she’s taught me that such a thing is possible.