Wanna hear a little love story? It goes like this.
Boy: “Hey, girl hey. My name is Ben, what’s your name?”
Girl: “Oh, hi, Ben. I’m Renee. Nice to meet you.”
Boy: “Wow, you’re nice. Wanna get married?”
And they lived happily ever after
Okay, okay, it wasn’t quite that fast. But close. When people find out we got married less than a year after we met, they usually have 1 of 3 reactions.
- They think we’re nuts. We get this reaction less now than when we first got married.
- They try to mask their opinion with a smile and something along the lines of “aweeee.”
- They one-up us with, “Oh fun! Us too… We got married 3 months after we met.”
THE MUSHY DETAILS
Here’s how it all went down. The Chicago Center is an off-campus study program that facilitates internships and student teaching in the city of Chicago for students from small liberal arts schools all over the country. The students live in apartments throughout Hyde Park, a south side Chicago neighborhood… former president Obama’s hood actually. (He and I were basically neighbors… well he lived in a mansion across the street from my shack. But ya know.)
Ben and I both studied at the Chicago Center in the fall of 2009. August 29, 2009 was the first day we met, waiting to check-in for orientation. I thought Ben was cute, but he had a tattoo on his leg, shaggy hair, and some sort of hemp necklace thing going on. So, I assumed he was no good. I had written off “guys like that,” and only wanted to date someone I would marry.
That night, all students were required to go to the Latin America Music festival in Grant Park. We sat near each other on the bus ride there. (Ben’s version is that I purposely sat near him, but I don’t recall that ) Then, we meandered around the festival together. Ben said later that he really wanted to ask me to salsa dance but was too nervous. Good thing he didn’t – I would have made a fool of myself and he might have gone running.
Over the course of the next couple weeks, we spent a lot of time together. Orientation activities all day, and in our free time, walks, coffee, and hanging out with new friends.
We went on our first date sometime in those first couple weeks of orientation. Ben asked me out, picked me up at my apartment, and we took the bus to the el. We took the el to Buca di Beppo downtown. It was a Saturday, and I mentioned I was going to my parents’ for dinner the next day. (They lived in the Chcicago suburbs, where I grew up.)
Ben asked to join at my parents’ house for dinner.
After only a couple weeks, I really liked him. But I was worried… this is bad news. Or is it? He wasn’t really walking with the Lord, yet I was inexplicably interested. I wondered if I should just cut it off.
Against my better judgement, I said sure.
My dad tells the story like this:
Your mom and I knew that you thought this guy was pretty great, but we figured it couldn’t be that serious since you’d only known each other for 2 weeks. When you walked in the door, he was polite, shook our hands and stuff… During dinner, the Lord told me, “This is the one.”
I said, “Really? him? Are you sure?”
God said, “Yep. Him.”
So, my dad took it upon himself to start mentoring the man that he and God knew would become my husband… even before Ben and I knew it. (My dad didn’t tell us that story until we were engaged.)
My dad started calling Ben often, and the read and discussed 1 John and John together. Ben started reading the Bible voraciously, and we began discussing it a lot. We grew together spiritually in a way I didn’t know was possible.
One thing led to another. His dad came to Chicago to visit that fall, and was surprised at how serious we seemed. Ben said, “I love you.” I romantically responded with, “What do you mean?” I went home with him to Omaha for Thanksgiving 2009. While we were in town, his grandpa took us to see the family burial plots. Ya know… the norm.
And in December of 2009, we decided to get married.
There was no fancy proposal. (Something I don’t care about, but Ben still says he regrets to this day.
Neither of us could afford a ring at the time. He did save up and get me one right before the wedding.
He asked my dad for my hand in marriage almost exactly 4 months after we met, and that made it official.
We were gettin’ hitched. He actually had planned to study abroad his last semester in college, so he flew off to Costa Rica, and I graduated early, started working, and planned a wedding… 2 actually! We moved the date from December 31, 2010 to October 2, 2010 to July 3, 2010! And no, I wasn’t pregnant.
We Skyped every day, and I visited him twice that semester.
He came back a couple weeks before our wedding, and we got married in my aunt’s back yard on July 3, 2010.
Almost 7 years later, and God has immensely blessed our marriage!
It seems appropriate to quote Bonhoeffer here, who said,
It’s not the love that makes the marriage. It’s the marriage that makes the love.
I wish I could wave that saying on a banner over everyone I know.
Raising kids is hard and exhausting. And we’re only a few years into this whole gig, so I really am not speaking from a place of expertise. But having watched many marriages ahead of ours that are ‘making it,’ and many that are falling apart… I am more convinced than ever that LOVE DOES.
Love is a choice.
And after the party guests leave, the wedding bells fade, and the butterflies go away, love is still a choice. You will both change. Sometimes you will hurt or irritate each other.
BUT – if you do what love does, you will feel what love feels.
Do what love does, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’re tired. Even when you feel lonely or hurt. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs or accuse. Love sticks up for the other person. Love says, “I’m on your team.” Love rejoices. Love apologizes frequently and forgives quickly.
And this guy – the one I fell head over heals for in the fall of 2009 – we have a deeper love than either of us knew existed. Cheers to the past 6 3/4 years, and here’s to another 70 more. Till death do us part.
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