Fifteen years ago today, I married Jana Michelle Parker. We were 20 years young and had no idea what was before us.
It certainly feels like a long time when you say it like that:
– Fifteen years.
– 180 months.
– 5478.75 days (for you leap year enthusiasts)
– 3 kids
– 26 child birthday parties
– 3 presidents
– Lots of tears; lots more laughs.
But more than this, there have been many moments. Life, I think, is often measured more by these moments than by years; they are the moments that, for whatever reason, become milestones in life. Whether they mean you are going into a season, coming out of a season, or simply commemorating something significant that happened, they stand like trail markers showing the way you’ve thus far come.
In light of that, I wanted to record 15 memories from 15 years. If you’re brave enough to continue, know there are a lot of inside jokes that you can ask my wife about later. In no particular order, then:
1. The flight to Lake Tahoe on our honeymoon. This was one of the first true panic moments of my life when I realized that I had never before checked into a hotel by myself, much less had to pay for one. It was truly terrifying, but hey, we’ll always have Inspector Gadget.
2. Joshua’s cancer diagnosis. Another terrifying moment. I remember having so many overwhelming questions about the future as I sat in the doctor’s office alone. And then I had to call Jana and tell her the news and wait for her to join us at the children’s hospital. But, by God’s grace, we were even that night able to not only cry but laugh. Such a gift.
3. Signing a teaching contract in Birmingham, Alabama. We lived high that night because that crazy school board was going to pay Jana $28,000 a year to teach children. To celebrate, we went to Pizza Hut and BOTH ordered the buffet.
4. The first chips and cheese night on a Wednesday. Oh, if we had only known how this would change the course of our weekly routine. Thank you, Baja Burrito, for your delicious bounty that continues to deliver such joy.
5. The day the allowance went up from $5 a month to $10 a month. See, when you get married when you’re 20, you have 0 dollars. So you have to give each other an allowance to spend on whatever you wanted for the month. And then that allowance doubles, and suddenly you’re able to eat at McDonald’s once a month instead of Krystal.
6. The day Joshua was born. I was in North Carolina. Jana was in Birmingham. And she went into labor. I drove at a very rapid rate of speed, secretly hoping that I would finally have something to say when stopped by the cop as an excuse. But there was no cop. I made it in time. And then almost passed out in the delivery room.
7. The day Andi was born. This one was interesting. Joshua was doing chemotherapy treatments, so there was the possibility that he and Jana would be in the hospital at the same time, just on entirely different sides of it. We worked out a very intricate system of caretakers for both of them, but sweet Andi was born without complication. I was there, and Joshua was too… with no hair as a result of his chemo. One of my favorite pictures in the world is still him holding her in that hospital room, her with more hair than him.
8. The day Christian was born. I was gone… again. And I made it home… again. It snowed that day and it was magical. Jana ate a Wendy’s cheeseburger and I loved it.
9. When Jana went back to work. I quit my job with the hopes and dreams of becoming a really famous author and speaker and, very romantically, my wife went back to teaching to support me. Amazingly, she did so without reluctance or complaint.
10. Flood day. It was the day of Andi’s birthday party and the heavens opened on Nashville, TN. Water streamed into our house as I tried, with the help of a few really good friends, to salvage our stuff and broom the water out the back door. I remember that night crying with my head in Jana’s lap. It’s one of the times I’ve felt the closest to her.
11. Our first vacation. As we’ve established, you have 0 dollars when you get married, so where do you go on vacation during your first year of marriage? You go to Oklahoma City. And that’s when you find out that no matter how good the deal is, it’s not a good idea to book a room for you and your wife that’s attached to a truck stop.
12. The Sunday we went to Grace Community Church together for the first time. Here we were, still in the throws of Joshua’s cancer treatment, and we showed up to a new church. We had been there separately before because Joshua couldn’t be in childcare yet due to his chemotherapy, but my parents stayed with him and we went hand in hand. And we heard the gospel. A lot. And we’ve been there ever since.
13. The Christmas season, 2012. Okay, this wasn’t just a moment, but it was indeed the most trying season of life I can remember. My wonderful and courageous younger brother had a very serious surgery. Jana’s mom began treatments in Texas for her cancer. And Jana’s father went to be with Jesus after a mighty struggle with Parkinson’s disease. And I’ve never been more proud to have this woman on my arm through the whole ordeal because of her compassion, grace, and courage.
14. The first Christmas tree. I told Jana that we couldn’t afford to have a Christmas tree that year because the budget wouldn’t allow it. Then I bought one anyway and set it up while she was at a night class. It was a solid move.
15. Tomorrow. I’m calling it beforehand. The Lord has been so gracious to us in the past; He will be gracious to us in the future. So I’m already grateful that when I wake up tomorrow morning, it will be next to the same woman it has been for the last decade and a half.