"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." ~Romans 5:1-5 (NASB)
The picture above was taken around the same time that Roger Cooper asked me to marry him. I was fifteen years-old at the time. A few years later, I married him. I don't know what we were thinking, but I am certain that it was part of God's plan. He's proven, time and time again, that He created us to live out our lives together. He made us partners...friends...warriors...together.
Today is our twelfth anniversary. The first year of our marriage is the most memorable. I look back at that year and shake my head. Dirt poor...eating churched-up Ramen and sleeping on an air mattress that deflated by morning. We made so many mistakes...like trying to wash the clothes in the bathtub when we were too proud to ask my parents for quarters for the laundry mat. But, we were thousands of miles from our parents...them in Indiana and us in southern California. The Marine Corps kept stealing my husband for weeks at a time, leaving me stranded in our apartment because I didn't know how to drive a stick shift. It was an adventure, for sure.
We messed up together, Roger and I. Rebelled together. Got in trouble together. Did things we shouldn't have together. We were growing up together...
One of my most surreal memories is the first time I kissed him goodbye for deployment. It was at San Diego Bay on a Navy Pier. The USS Boxer was anchored, Marines and Sailors loading. It wasn't even dawn yet...the air thick and salty...cold. We stood in the parking lot, holding each other for as long as we could before the final kiss goodbye. But I couldn't leave, even after I watched him walk down the pier (I think he was wearing his leather biker jacket, actually...in civies...Sea Bag slung over shoulder...but maybe my romantic brain is dreaming that part up). But I didn't leave until the ship pulled out of the harbor. I stood there for hours...watching other couples kiss goodbye. When the ship was gone, I drove back to our apartment, packed it up myself and flew home to Indiana.
We've been through so much in what seems like a short time. Deployment, war (for some reason, that kiss goodbye wasn't nearly as hard), lost babies...moves across country, job loss and poverty. There are countless 'little' crisis mixed among all the life-altering ones. But I like to focus on the amazing things that happened during the hard times. Two impressive babies were gifted to us right at the exact moment we had given up...right when we let hope slip from our fingers...the moment when God's promises felt more like something we made up out of our own pain. I remember Roger hovering over me as they placed Lucy on my chest...all white and slimy. We both cried, tears rolling. God HAD promised her to us. We stopped believing...almost...and in that moment, we had her. Teddy...well, that was just God showing off. Literally.
After Teddy was born, life got harder than it had ever been...even harder than our experience with war. Roger lost his job and life just sorta started falling apart. But God winked at us from time to time. He promised things...better things. But time stretched on with one struggle after another. Yet, there was the time we prayed for a van (almost sarcastically, not really expecting) and less than two weeks later, a very nice van was simply given to us. We survived. And just when it felt we could take no more...that we were sinking deeper and deeper...years later...God blessed Roger with a job that far out-weighed expectations...or our needs. He showed off, once again. (That job happened less than two weeks ago!)
But that's not what is praise worthy...
Praise God, we grew independently and as a couple. We grew spiritually. In the struggle, He brought our God-give talents to the surface and let them shine. He anointed Roger's ability to lead people to the gates of Heaven through praise and worship. Hallelujah...He made us something broken but very useful. He gave us sight when we were blind to compassion and grace. He planted in us a heart for other ragamuffins, broken-hearted, the rejected and persecuted. Out of our brokeness...He made something more beautiful than we could have become without the storms. Praise God He gave us the storms. I couldn't be more thankful for them.
I know there will be more storms. This isn't the end. But right now, I certainly am thankful not to be as blind as I was twelve years ago when I said, "I do."
"I Love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life..."
Thank you, Father...for the twelve years You've blessed us with. I wouldn't change a thing. It has been orchestrated by Your hand...and You've allowed everything to happen because You see something beautiful on the horizon. I love You for it. Twelve years is linen and silk...but you gave us something far more valuable when you gave us the hard times (Ummm...but...don't think this means it's all I ever want!).
PS: Heaven help the boy should he have the courage to ask MY daughter to marry him when she is only 15! ;)