I was so nervous on our wedding day, I couldn't eat.
Remember, we woke up early to have breakfast together before getting all fancied up and prepared for the celebration?
Neither of us could stomach more than three bites.
It wasn't because we were nervous about our decision to say "I do." It wasn't because we were unsure of forever-together.
I think it's because we knew we stood on the edge of forever.
We knew after August 11, 2012 at 6 pm, we'd be with one another until death do us part.
The gravity and gift of saying "I do" to someone like you was not lost on me.
I knew from that day forward, I would have the privilege of having you by my side, through sickness [and health], and hard times [and good], and loss [and gain]. Through [richer] and poorer.
I never considered us poor, but we made well below the poverty line those first few years. We somehow always ate, despite our checking account continually reading $0. Our dates were packing dinner and hitting up the laundromat; or if we were really feeling fancy we'd ride bikes to Bald Hill. I drove around my manual 1992 Toyota Tercel with ripped up seat-carpet, missing the third gear, and a broken seat belt while you had a entirely-manual 2006 Ford Focus your parents bought you on the day you proposed to me. We budgeted so tightly, paying for everything in cash out of paper envelopes. Every penny had a spot it belonged.
We couldn't have been happier.
As we stood at the altar five years ago, I didn't know what the years following would hold but I knew to the bottom of myself I was grateful to have you by my side.
We built a thriving a healthy youth ministry from nothing, except Jesus and a burning love for the students in our city. Those years were infused with so much grace and goodness, despite how wonky leadership was. We rarely talk about those sweet times, because it's painful. We had so much fun together, taking kids to coffee and inviting them into our home. We so badly wanted to model a healthy marriage to them.
Not long after our sacred moments at the altar, we decided we loved each other so much we wanted to make a family together.
We knew we'd adopt one day—we'd been saving since our first measly paychecks as Mr. + Mrs.—but we thought starting the biological way seemed to make sense.
I'm so thankful to have had you as the devastation began settling in: maybe the doctors were right. Maybe my body was broken.
You're not exactly overflowing with emotion, and I knew this when we stood at the altar. But you continue to serve me and work hard to meet me where I'm at, even in the depths of emotions. When conceiving biologically proved to be harder for us than for others, it didn't seem difficult for you to meet me in the devastation. You wanted to become a daddy just as I wanted to become a mama.
We knew we wanted to adopt so we began really taking steps towards adoption.
I shortly after got pregnant and we danced and you cried and we celebrated in our tiny postage stamp apartment. There was no one else I wanted to become a parent with.
Those were dark, unexpected days but when I look back on our altar day, speaking sacred vows and promises of togetherness during hard times and loss and sickness...I was thankful. I was thankful for the vow and promise we made to one another, because I needed you more than I ever needed anyone.
I needed to know I could be as broken as possible and still have you by my side, unwavering in your vow and commitment to me.
When we discovered I was pregnant again, I shook in your arms afraid for the life we created while you cried tears of joy. What if we lose our adoption process and this baby? (MY PREGNANCY AFTER LOSS: DISCOVERING THIS GIFT [THE JOURNEY'S NOT OVER])
When we stood at the altar and spoke vows of forever, I didn't know we would be ripped so traumatically from the very community celebrating our union. Neither of us could have seen the hurt and loss to come, but when the undoing of us from that beloved church community began...I was so grateful to be hand in hand with you.
There we stood jobless, banned from our beloved community, unsure where to go next, pregnant with high risks, and in the thick of an adoption process. The walls of our life shattered, but we still stood together. Together. Bound by a vow.
A few months later we got the phone call that changed our life: a little boy was born and his mama wanted us to be his. She chose us!
When we stood at the altar, whispering promises of good days and togetherness...I couldn't have foreseen the immense joy I would experience watching you become daddy.
When you held Sage that firs time, I about broke into a million tiny pieces.
Watching your heart transform from fear of birth families to fiercely fighting for our son's birth family has made me fall for you all over again.
When our second son joined us less than five months later, and you were ripped from my presence as they put me under and unconscious to retrieve him from my body, I'll never forget the look of panic in your eyes. I'll never forget laying on the operating table and seeing your frantic, helpless eyes boring into mine, not wanting to leave my side as they physically moved you from the room. You did not want to leave your wife as she was traumatically put under. You did not want to miss your second son's birth, too. [Read my 5-part birth story].
As we held hands, giggling through our "I do's" five years ago, I knew we'd have good days. I knew we'd have fun and sweet memories to last us forever. I knew we'd have hard times and painful days and loss, but I didn't know how they'd look.
We are only five years from the sacredness of our wedding day. We've only just begun living our forever together, and yet it feels like we've lived so much.
LB, we aren't perfect and we are perpetually learning the art of "I'm sorry." We are good at reminding the other we are on each other's team. I am so thankful we are in agreement: marriage counseling is good and sort of a vitamin.
And when hard days have come and lasted longer than we wanted, I've found after they pass we have been made stronger.
Our vows are more certain than ever and I'm unendingly thankful for the confidence infused in commitment.
When I look back at my 20 year old self—so giddy to marry her groom—I smile. Sure, I was ignorant of what was to come and still probably am. But I knew I didn't know what was to come. I was sure we'd have hard days and I wondered what they'd be, but I knew we'd find ourselves knit closer than before.
I was so giggly and giddy to marry you, LB.
When we choreographed our first dance to "Kiss The Girl," I didn't realize it would set the stage for our future dances. There's not a lot of slow, romantic dancing around our parts...but I'm learning it's the fun and goofy dancing the most laughter is birthed.
Im thankful for The Vow because it marks no matter what. It screams together for forever and that is something I won't take lightly.
Remember when our cake never showed up? But we didn't care. We didn't care because we were getting married and that was all that mattered. It was one of the sweetest seasons of my life. I was never more sure of anything, than I was when I said yes to you.
Right now we are in another sweet, sweet season. Sleepless and messy, squished into less than seven hundred square feet, I'm so thankful for this season. Two one year olds? We came first, the birth of us and our branch of Brenners...now we have two littles to build a legacy for.
This legacy is one I have big hopes for. I know you do too. It's pretty cool we can change tides of family traditions, beliefs, and ways of life, right? It's hard changing a family legacy, it takes intentional work, and I am deeply grateful you are in agreement to intentionally create a more beautiful and wholesome branch of family. The legacy starts here, with us, five years ago saying I do.
As we add more little lives to our family, we know they'll be born out of more loss and tragedy. We know it'll add layers of broken hearts, grief, and messiness. But having you by my side makes me more than certain that we can do it. We can wade through tragedy and brokenness together, because we are incredibly stronger together.
Witnessing your heart for justice unfold, your humility deepen, and your desire to make this world better has reminded me ten fold why I married you. I don't regret for a second making that weighty decision as a mere 20 year old.
I'm honored to call myself your wife. I'm honored to have you as my husband. 'm honored for the vow we spoke and will continue to speak.
The Vow is holy. The Vow creates confidence in our commitment.
Happy anniversary, love.
will continue to say "I do" over and over again.