It Started with a Love Story

Tell your story. Tell it to your kids, your friends, your brothers and sisters, but especially to each other. The more your story is implanted in your brain, the more it serves as a hedge against the myriad of forces that seek to destroy your marriage. Make your story so familiar that it becomes part of the fabric of your being.

Jerry Jenkins

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Our Family Began With a Love Story…

It’s easy to forget in the midst of daily life, dirty diapers, work schedules, and child-rearing that the basis of all this was once just a love story.

As Josh and I celebrated our 6th anniversary yesterday, I’m reminded that our story isn’t just a thing of the past. It’s part of who we are today. It’s part of the legacy that started our family. Our identity as individuals and as a couple is wrapped up in our story.

The story is still being written. Right now we’re in a chapter that’s about parenting, choosing family priorities, and often choosing time with each other over a good night’s sleep after the kids are in bed.

Parenting is important to us, but it’s just one part of who Josh and I are as a couple. It helps me to look back and remember the events that led us to each other. To remember the traits and characteristics that attracted us to one another. To remember how I knew that I wanted to spend my whole life with this one man.

Meeting…

When I first met Josh at our mutual friend’s inaugural basement church gathering, I was attracted, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed him without the No Shave November in January beard. Apparently it took a lot of courage for him to come up and introduce himself. He’s a quiet guy and admitted to admiring girls from a distance many times but not acting on it. Something was different this time. Not only did he introduce himself, he took the initiative to add me on Facebook where we ended up exchanging numbers and setting up a “real conversation.”

Josh and I are very different and complementary people. He told me upon our meeting that he was studying computer science and math and looking for an internship for his final year. “Those are two things I suck at!” I blurted out.

It’s worth noting that while Josh and I most definitely would have been friends had we met earlier in life, the timing would not have been right. We discovered upon our first “real conversation” (aka four hour coffee date) at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse that we had a few mutual friends, strikingly similar musical tastes, and had both attended the past two Cornerstone festivals – even been at some of the same shows! But we never met. I believe this was providential. Neither of us would have been ready to meet our spouse at that point in life. We were both dating other people and growing in ourselves in the years prior to our meeting. Part of me regrets my prior dating experiences. But in all honesty, if I hadn’t have made mistakes and known who not to marry, I wouldn’t have been so confident upon finding Josh that he was indeed “The One.”

That first coffee shop conversation was pivotal for me. By the time my Peppermint Panda Latte was gone, I knew I had found a great guy. Marriage material? Not sure yet. But I remember using the restroom and having a moment to myself thinking “Wow, this guy is awesome!”

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Back at the same place for engagement photos.

Incidentally, I never held back my outgoing and slightly crazy personality from Josh. He was quiet and my whole family liked him instantly, but they were afraid I would scare him off. I figured it was better for me to be myself from the start and if he was scared off, it was better to know sooner rather than later.

But he wasn’t scared. He listened. His reserved attitude balanced my intensity. He didn’t even freak out when I had the very smart idea to go for a picnic in a cemetery…and we got locked in after dark! We drove around the whole (large!) cemetery and found no alternate gate. Josh and I both noted that some people would get frustrated and be scarred at this point. We both remained amazingly calm, listened to Thrice, and knew we’d laugh about it all…eventually. It ended with us finally giving up and calling 911 – the dispatcher said “Oh yeah! We have the key. We’ll send an officer over to let you out.”

If Josh was ever gonna run, that would have been it! I figured if our relationship could survive that dating disaster, we could weather anything. It all made sense when I finally met his younger brothers. Jacob, Stephen, and Zach were outgoing and crazy too. (We had a sit-up competition shortly after being introduced – which I think I won!) Now I understood why Josh wasn’t intimidated by me. We were quite the match!

Fast-forward about a year. Josh and I went through the motions of dating. We navigated some holidays and anniversaries with homemade gifts and witty love notes. We attended Cornerstone festival together this time, with our friends and members of our families. We started to see each other respond to God’s voice about various scenarios. We saw real glimpses into each other’s character and were more certain than ever that we were meant for each other.

Josh writes, “It was too convenient that we were both graduating in the coming spring semester (even though we had graduated high school in different years, had started college in different relative semesters, and were getting degrees of different length). I knew what I wanted, and I began conspiring.

“The hardest part was conniving a chance to give her dad a heads-up, as her seven-person-family always has somebody at home. But I prayed for opportunity, and suddenly there was an afternoon where Emily and I were hanging out at their house; Amanda was at WinterJam and after dinner the other girls and mom all left for a craft night. Almost never in the entire past year had I been in that house without her, and certainly never alone with her father. But everything kept falling into place.”

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Marriage…

We were married October 16, 2010. It was a beautiful but laid-back day full of many friends, our favorite music, much dancing, and good food. (We found out that a background in directing and filmmaking makes it pretty easy and fun to plan a wedding!) But most importantly we knew that whatever the actual day was like, what really mattered was the words we spoke to each other and the fact that we were committing our lives to each other once and for all.

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Afterward we had an unforgettable week in Mazatlan, Mexico. (We also found out Josh is great at researching and planning vacations!) Our frugal selves will probably never go on another trip quite that extravagant again, but it was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience! All the beaches, food, exploring, and spending time together was truly amazing.

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Just before zip-lining on our honeymoon.

But the story doesn’t end there! That’s the thing with love stories…they are often driven by infatuation alone and not real-life. We had a pretty easy first year of marriage. It was fun learning to live together and communicate better. We saved up and bought our first house together, in what seemed like the perfect place – between our jobs and between our parents. The real challenge came when we decided it was time to start trying for a baby.

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Our first home!
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Our one-year anniversary in the Smoky Mountains.

Challenges…

I’ve written about this journey more in-depth already. Suffice it to say, this was our first big crisis we faced that drew us closer to God and closer to each other. I couldn’t explain why I wanted a child so badly – I just felt like it was my calling and I couldn’t understand why God’s timing was different than my own. After exactly one year of waiting and praying and wondering if we’d ever have a biological child, we were finally pregnant with Malachi! He was born April 2, 2013. (Interestingly enough, Malachi 4:2 is the verse we had in mind when we named him. It’s like God was winking at us, reminding us that his timing is better than ours.)

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First family photo, just hours after Malachi entered the world.

Time and time again in life, I’ve noticed that things aren’t suddenly perfect when one prayer is answered. All our troubles didn’t go away when we found each other and got married (even though it was, and still is, awesome!) Same with having a baby. Yes, Malachi was exactly what we had longed for and dreamed about. He is the one who made me a mother and Josh a father. But just because he was a beautiful answer to prayer doesn’t mean life with a newborn was easy. Josh and I were stretched and changed after Malachi came. We navigated his unpredictable sleeping schedule, postpartum hormones, and a change in priorities. Through all of this, I got to see Josh handle becoming a father with selfless grace and love. This was when the true quality of person I married was revealed to me. Josh proved to definitely be a man of integrity who wasn’t stressed by a crying infant (and sometimes a crying wife!)

Changes…

Not long after Malachi was born, God once again spoke to our hearts – this time about moving out of our cozy home in the suburbs. We didn’t know what this move would look like, but we felt a strong call to live in the city and serve somehow. I remember going to Downtown St. Louis to visit The City Museum one day and weeping tears of longing over my city. I felt such a need there and such a disconnect from it.

It took approximately another year, but Josh got a job closer to the city and made the move in November 2014.

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Our 100-year-old home in the city.

Our home is definitely large and old and it’s an ongoing home improvement project. But we feel like we’re exactly where we’re meant to be in this season of our lives. We know God led us to this specific place for a specific purpose. At the time we thought that the purpose was to serve urban youth and volunteer with refugees, but once again God had a different plan…

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We found out we were expecting Shiloh literally the month after we moved! It was an unexpected curve-ball, but we were overjoyed that we didn’t have to wait for this baby like we did for Malachi. I believe God was telling us that this season was for serving, but this was a chance for our family to serve each other first.

Shiloh was born August 17, 2015. He was born at home with the assistance of a midwife, and his birth remains one of my greatest accomplishments ever.

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The moment when I realize that we have another one.
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First family photo with two boys!

Life with two boys is both challenging and rewarding. Some days I’m completely overwhelmed, but I know this is what I’m called to. I know God will give me the strength each day to fulfill my calling. I’m here because I’m investing in something long-term.

When taking care of the boys, it’s important to not get distracted and remember to take care of my marriage as well. Josh and I are in this for the long haul. Our boys mean a lot to us, but they are a product of our commitment to one another. Our relationship is what started our family, and our relationship is what will remain when our kiddos are grown and moved out. It’s important to invest in raising our boys, but if we don’t also invest in each other, then our relationship will dry up as the years pass.

That’s why we celebrate one another. That’s why we prioritize little trips and getaways alone. That’s why our anniversary is my favorite day out of the year. Josh and I have grown and changed a lot as a couple throughout the years. And this change isn’t bad. It’s the positive changes that come from living life together and dreaming about the future together. We didn’t know what life would look like when we got married. I was convinced I didn’t want Josh to ever change when I married him! But now I see that changing is inevitable and it can be the best thing that can happen to a person.

We’ve grown, we’ve created a family mission, and we’ve set goals and challenges for ourselves. We also give each other grace and remind one another that we’re not perfect and will only get frustrated if perfection is what we’re focused on.

Thank you, Josh for being my solid pillar and my dearest friend. Thank you for listening to me and letting me cry and encouraging me to serve and use my gifts for God’s kingdom. I am challenged and spurred on by you. You make me want to be the best version of myself. You are, without a doubt, the best man for me – both now and always. Thank you for loving me so well and giving me a little glimpse of what God’s love looks like. Happy anniversary!

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