Friday, June 12, 2009

We've Only Just Begun...

On this day, 27 years ago, I stood in Spring Baptist Church watching the woman I love walk down the aisle on the arm of her father. Little did I know, as he patted her hand looking into her eyes, he was making one final offer to help her escape. I am thankful that on that day she decided to ignore her father’s offer as it was the fantastic beginning of two different lives becoming one.

I was raised on country music – the Red Headed Stranger, Waylon Jennings, The Gatlin Brothers, David Allen Coe, Jerry Jeff Walker and other “redneck” recording artists of the 70’s. Andi could sing every Beatles song ever written word for word. The Bee Gees, Carpenters, and Journey sang the lyrics that came through her 8 Tracks. She was from an upper middle class family living in the suburbs of the 4th largest city in America. I was a country boy who wore boots and hauled hay in the fields that dotted the countryside around Tyler County. She was a Gloria Vanderbilt girl and I was a Levi’s and Tony Lama boy. She was a Spring Starlette; I a Woodville Eagle. We were different in 1,000’s of ways. Yet, in just a short period of time those differences would begin to become one.

In the fall of 1978 my life changed dramatically as we moved to the suburbs of Houston. My brother and only sibling had been killed in an accident that devastated my mother and me. Months later my widowed mom married a man she had been seeing and soon I was seeing Woodville in my rear view mirror headed for Spring, Texas.

Life in Spring was strange and unfamiliar but God provided. I made friends, found a job, endured high school and then one day – one of the top 10 greatest days of my life – a high school buddy hit me in the halls and said, “Hey Byron, Andi likes you.” I was floored! I mean, come on, I had noticed her but never talked to her. I had admired her incredible beauty from a distance but never once dared approach her. And now, the thought that this beautiful girl liked me was almost too good to be true. It was a call to action!

We went on our first date to “The Mariner” in May 1980 (I still remember what she wore that night). I graduated from high school a few weeks later and we saw each other almost every day during our first summer together. We were quickly falling in love and it was wonderful.

We went to more movies at Greenspoint Mall than should be allowed and sat for hours in Bennigan’s eating steak fingers, chimichangas, ultimate nachos and drinking iced tea. We talked and talked, looking at each other with “googly eyes.” I hung on every word she said and as we laughed together our love grew. We saw concerts together and swam often in the pool at her house. Life was good and love was flourishing for both of us. It was the closest thing to paradise I had ever experienced. God had rescued me from the dark days of tragedy by sending a beautiful young lady into my life who cared about me. We were destined to become soulmates and best friends. Then the moment of truth came…

After we had dated 18 months we were on our way to an Eddie Rabbit concert when talk turned to marriage. This was not the first time we had dreamed of marrying, but that night it took a more serious turn. Now I have to admit, I have always been embarrassed by my sloppy, juvenile tactics as I popped the question. There was no nice restaurant, no holding her hand while on bended knee, not even an engagement ring – you ladies are thinking, “You should be embarrassed” – there was simply a 19 year old guy who knew he was in love and that the best thing of his life was in the car with him at that moment. So in my youthful exuberance and before I could help myself, I blurted out the question – “Do you want to marry me?” Andi was a little shocked at my bluntness and perhaps a little surprised when she asked, “Is this it?” I grinned an affirmation, said “yes” and all of a sudden we were headed to the altar six months later. We’d only just begun.

After a six month engagement we were married at Spring Baptist Church on June 12, 1982. We did the Texas triangle for a honeymoon – San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and back to Houston. Upon our return, we set up house in an apartment off Southwest freeway and settled into a wonderful life together. We both worked long hours at our jobs but we spent every other bit of time together. I was paying my way through college so money was usually tight but we were happy! We talked for long hours and dreamed together of all God had in store for us. We traveled when we could and ate at a new restaurant just about every week. We became better than best friends. That was 27 years ago and yet to this day our love is so fresh I sometimes feel like we’ve only just begun.

For 27 years I have talked to Andi every day and but for just a few days of business travel or hunting, I have laid my head on the pillow beside my wife every night. There has never been one moment I have regretted saying “I do” to this woman. I have admired her tenacity and courage as she delivered our three babies. I have watched her spiritual strength and trust in God grow. I have seen her beauty increase with every day and our love grow beyond anything we could have dreamed or imagined on our wedding day. I have watched her arise in the morning early, take her bible and journal in hand and get alone with God for her strength for the day. I have counted it a great privilege to hold her hand as she cried and give a shoulder when she wept. Even in the days when we didn’t know what was coming our way, the one rock-solid truth we knew as a couple was that we had each other and with God’s help we would make it together!

I am blessed! I wouldn’t trade it for anything! And if God will answer my prayer that we get 70 years together then we’re not even half-way there yet so again... we’ve only just begun!

Andi, I love you more today than on any day we’ve ever had together and I will love you more tomorrow than I love you today! Thank you for loving me. BATW

(My next post will share with you 10 truths I have learned from marriage and ministry that every person who is newly married or planning to get married should hear. I will post it Monday.)