Ten years ago today, Jeni and I said, “I do.” Next, we declared out vows – promises to stay together regardless of the trials we might face. As I prepared a compilation CD of songs that tell our story, I was taken aback by the mountains we’ve had to climb. We’ve lost many of the friends and family who shared our wedding day with us. We’ve moved across the country twice, and around the southeast twice as well. We’ve lived in at least seven different houses, welcomed four children into the world, been witness to churches crumbling, walked with friends as they fought for their marriages, wept with friends as they lost a child, wrestled with our oldest son having a severe brain injury, suffered heartbreak from friends, been let down by our sources of support, lived in my in-laws living room, faced unemployment, hurt with my sister when she broke her back, and more moments that found us digging for silver linings.
Our first year might have been the toughest. Jeni and I moved from Florida to Minnesota, built and remodeled a house, and faced unexpected job difficulties. These factors, combined with our immaturity, led to hours with a marriage counselor and many tear-soaked pillows. We learned quickly, marriage isn’t easy.
Year two brought the excitement of our first son, Caedmon, and the numbing fear of potentially losing him. Normal parenting for us has always included developmental specialists, physical therapy appointments, medical research, and wheelchairs. Many know our experience, others often say, “I don’t know how you do it.” (A big part of the answer is Jeni’s a Supermom.)
Here’s all I want to say; when Jeni and I said we would be married “till death do us part,” we meant it. No exceptions. What I learned, going back over all the hills we’ve climbed, is that we could have quit many, many times. Most people wouldn’t have thought any less of us if we broke under the pressure and went our separate ways. But it was never an option. Jeni mentioned how strong and significant our love is today, different and deeper than ever before. She’s so right. We had no idea what love was ten years ago, and that’s what the vows were for.
Our mutual promise carried us through the hardships so we could reach this plateau, and enjoy the view. I have no idea what the next ten years will bring, but I know whose hand I’ll be holding. I made a Forever Vow to Jeni, and only death will break it.
I know there are many who are struggling for their marital lives out there. Some are feeling the pain of infidelity, some are feeling the pinch of financial instability, some are wrestling with fears that their spouse isn’t the person they thought they were. I know it’s hard, but remember your vow. There are times it can feel like a burden, and that’s okay. I often get annoyed putting on a life vest, but when trouble comes, I’m sure glad it’s there.
Jimmy Valvano said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” He was speaking to those fighting cancer. Can I say those words to you? No matter what you’re facing, you promised, just like I did, to stay together till death parted you. Trust the promise. One day you’ll reach the top, and the view will take your breath away.