“Whatever Life Looks Like” – An 8th Wedding Anniversary Letter

October 27, 2007 The day I became Mrs. Greene
October 27, 2007
The day I became Mrs. Greene

By: Jana Greene

I don’t remember what life was like before you.

I know the first 37 years of my life existed, obviously. But I was always alone, even when in relationship with others. And I know that I was a complete person then, before I knew you. I wasn’t always a complete person, you know. God had to do a work in me when I was all on my own in order for that to happen.

I’m glad for that because it enabled me to bring a whole person into your world at just the right time.
You changed everything, and for the better.

I can recall the first time our eyes locked in church. I was trying really hard not to look your way. Focus on Jesus, I kept thinking. But I could feel your eyes on me.

I was SO DONE with dating at that point. I’d made up my mind to be single forever, for simplicity’s sake. My mangled-up heart was too raw to consider anything else. But still, it skipped so many beats when you smiled at me.

After church, you asked me to lunch and I said yes, and it changed the trajectory of both of our lives forever. It was (at the risk of sounding completely inane) as if I’d known you my whole life. There was a distinct lack of awkward in our gait together.

After that one event, I was hooked. You were in my bloodstream. You were implanted into my heart. A year later we placed rings on one another’s fingers and pledged our lives to each other, mindful of keeping God at the top of our “relationship triangle” – where he still reigns.

We have needed Him to be at the top of our lives. Loving you has always been effortless, but day-to-day life hasn’t always been easy.

Do you remember a conversation we had when we were dating, in which I offhandedly said, “Things are perfect right now. I hope they never change!” We were in a season of glowy illusion then, everything misty watercolors and cupid’s arrows. (Science says that when we are in love, the same areas of the brain ‘light up’ as do with delusional mental illness. My brain was alight, alright!)

And you said, “Well, of course they’re going to change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. But we are in it together no matter what that looks like.”

Life has looked like a lot of things since then!

We were both single parents when we wed. Single parents to teen girls. There were times I wanted to run away from home (but even then, I wanted to take you with me.)

“In sickness and in health” kicked in at starting gate. Richer or poorer, for better or for worse. CHECK.

But we’re still standing.

Eight years ago, life happened, and kept happening. In times of upheaval, we lean into each other harder, and look to God at the top of the triangle to keep us on an even keel so that we don’t fall overboard, and somehow, he keeps showing up and showing off with His love for us.

He really is showing off in our marriage, you know. In a big way.

And the rewards of staying on board are so incredible. You ‘get’ me, and I ‘get’ you, and it’s positively supernatural the way we love one another. Not because it’s easy, but because it is and was always a “God Thing.”

It tickles me that the man I met in church who distracted me from Jesus that day would help me focus on Jesus for the rest of my life in a way I had never done before.

Our wedding vows were not pie-in-the-sky, movie-romance, sugary words spoken as a crime of passion, but as a passionate preamble to a lifetime of “whatever life looks like.”

I’ve got you and you’ve got me, no matter what.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. So much of it looks like laughter, comfort, ease, and passion. It looks like just being ourselves, together.

Our daughters grew up beautifully, with an actual idea of what a good marriage can look like. We are grandparents now. All of the ‘things’ work out and we grow stronger.

I still can’t take my eyes off of you.

My brain has never gone back to ‘normal’ (as if it ever was!) It is still lit up like crazy for you.

Of course things change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. We are in it together, whatever that looks like.
Misty water-colors, cupid’s arrows, challenges and trials – all. All of it, I get to do with you.

I cannot remember life before you and I’m glad I don’t have to. God blessed the broken roads that led me straight to you.

Eight years ago, life happened to me at just the right time. You happened to me, My Beloved.
I’m so grateful.

Happy anniversary!

Valor, quietly: What “Father-ness” really looks like

“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

– John Mayer, “Daughters”

I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.

Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.

Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?

What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.

It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.

It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.

It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.

It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.

It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.

It looks like unselfishness.

It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.

It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids  (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)

It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)

It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.

It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.

It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.

It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.

It looks like valor, quietly.

It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.

It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.

It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)

It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.

It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.

It looks like having stunt-man like ability to roll off the drama.

It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”

It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.

It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.

It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.

It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.

It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.

It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.

My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.

“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “

For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)

“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18,  says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”

My eldest, also now 22,  came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think about my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”

What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.

It looks like love.

Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:

“Dad…
I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’
So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you.
Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”

 

Six Years – an anniversary poem

I do, I do, I DO!
I do, I do, I DO!

Dear Bob,

Today is out sixth wedding anniversary. Of course, you remember – because you are just so cool that way, husband-wise.

What a wild ride our lives have been since Oct. 27, 2007, right?

This morning, when you wake up next to me, you will likely sneak out quietly to make the coffee. You will feed the cats and shush them as they mew for food, so that I can sleep in a little late.

And when I wake up, my first thought will be to make the coffee and feed the cats so that you can sleep in….on this – our Anniversary day.

And maybe that’s one of the reasons we just work so well. Come to think of it, yeah. I think that has a lot to do with it. Here is a poem for you….it’s pretty corn-ball, but it comes from the heart. I do love you so.

Your Wife

Six years of marriage…. How can that be?

(Seven since you’ve shared your life with me.)

You are the rational, organized one,

I bring the chaos (we’ll call it the  ‘fun’ ?)

You calm me down when my anxiety peaks,

You are the  one through whom God often speaks

to quell my nerves and bring the sense.

Do I thank you enough for this?

We’ve done richer and poorer,

For Better or worse,

In sickness and health?

By letter and verse!

We’ve blended a family –

All girls, no less…

We’ve lived through the drama, the triumphs, the stess.

At the end of the day, there ‘s just you and me,

And our wonky, blended-up family,

God at the most honored place,

At the top of the triangle,

Showing us grace….

And laughter,

And love,

and a place to belong,

To keep our momentum going strong.

May our PDAs always gross-out our kids,

And remain the stuff of lore,

May we always find the humor in things,

And learn to laugh even more.

May we always be the best of friends

Growing closer as we grow in age,

Hand-in-hand walking as one –

Not two –

Through every life chapter and stage.

Six years ago, how can that be….?

It seems like yesterday to me,

Beloved, I love you forever and more –

I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Thank you, Baby, for marrying me –

Oh,

Happy Anniversary!

The Geometry of Marriage

I really do!
I really do!

By: Jana Greene

“Did you lose the bet?”

It was a man’s voice. I was sifting through birthday cards at the drugstore, and it took a moment for me to realize he was speaking to me.

“Excuse me?” I said politely.

“Did you lose the bet with your husband?” He nodded at me, looking at the words on my t-shirt.

Emblazoned in simple, black lettering on the front of the pink shirt: I love my husband.

“Nope,” I said, laughing a little. “I just really do.”

He shrugged and walked away.

Another time, I had a nurse who was taking my blood pressure say, “That’s an interesting shirt. What does it say on the back?” He was thinking maybe that there was a snarky retort on the reverse…a zinger.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I just love my husband.”

“Huh.”

I’d bought the pink t-shirt it at a  bookstore several years ago when My Beloved and I were newlyweds. I had never been in love in the all-encompassing way that I loved him, and had never really expected to be. That head-over-heels-ness was for other people, I’d thought.

But God had other, better plans.

It’s the second marriage for each of us; not quite a May-December union, but possibly a June-September one, in that we were older and – if not wiser – more in tuned with God.

We actually did meet in church, and there was chemistry right away. But there was sanity, too – and that was a new wrinkle in relationships on my part.

As we fell in love more deeply, it became apparent that we were meant to be married. But because we had both failed at our previous marriages,  we decided to do something differently. We made a conscious and verbal decision not to make our marriage about ourselves – or even about each other. Making marriage about the other person is like making salvation about religion. It’s the relationship that really matters.

From the very start, we agreed to consider our marriage as a triangle of sorts, with God sitting at the top and he and I on the bottom corners, looking up. The “circle of trust” may be important, but the Triangle of Marriage keeps us in check.

In the years since My Beloved married me, reality has moved in and made itself at home, as is inevitable.  With the blending of three teen daughters came epic drama in the household. With reality came  economic ups and downs, health issues and challenges of getting older.  We are two very imperfect people, in love with each other and with God. And sometimes we disagree, and have to check our positions in the triangle of relationship and remember who is in the Highest Place of honor.

So, come to think of it….maybe I do wear the t-shirt because I lost a bet.

I happily and gratefully lost a bet with God. Before marrying my husband.  I had staked my understanding of the future on my own past failure in marriage. I couldn’t make it work, so I was doomed to be alone (or worse, repeat the cycle).

But God had other, better plans that are not dependent on my failures or successes.

There – at the top of the Triangle – He gives our marriage chemistry, sanity and loads of grace when reality makes itself at home.  In the all-encompassing way that only God can love us, he emblazoned it in simple, black lettering in the pages of His Word:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

We are His Beloveds, and He is head-over-heels for us.