Since you all were last here with me, Denise packed up many of her essentials and moved to Illinois to be with me. Plus we got married. So, in the past few days, we have enjoyed Denise's last day of teaching and first day of retirement, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, wedding eve, wedding day, and now honeymoon day. Not a bad week.
Yesterday (wedding day for those keeping track) was wonderful. We enjoyed the simple wedding that we both desired. It was held in Bennorth Chapel, that used to be Chuck's Discount Photo Studio, and is now just our living room. It was attended by my three sons and their wife / significant others. I am so thankful for each of you making the time to be there with and for us. The Pastor for our ceremony was Brian, who was one of the fourth graders I taught in Sunday School nearly 30 years ago. One of my closest friends, Jim, was our photographer. His wife Kate, rounded out the group. The wedding was short, simple and beautiful. Our first Christmas tree was the backdrop, and it looked beautiful.
Neither Denise or I wanted the wedding to be the center of attention, but wanted the wedding as the place where we publicly committed what we had already had been living, before God and our family and friends. We wrote our own vows to each other, so I was able to vow to Denise the ways that I will love, serve and care for her in our marriage. These are the vow that I committed to my lovely bride yesterday afternoon:
Denise, I choose you as my best friend, partner and lover forever.
You are my first and last thought every day, and most of the thoughts in between
You are my confidante and encourager
You are my safe harbor
I will love you and serve you, as Christ loved the Church
I will protect your heart and our relationship
I will listen always and help when help is wanted
I will cherish you and show you that in my words and actions
I love the mother that you are, and I promise to serve and encourage your relationship with your children.
I will never let you wonder about the depth of my love for you
I will be there with you, in good times and bad; in sickness and in health. I will never leave you.
I will suffer with you in times of suffering and soar with you in times of victory
I will support and encourage you in this next phase of our life, as you enjoy the opportunity to express yourself in your writing, your photography, and your life. I am your biggest fan.
I will always let you know where I am and what I am doing, you will never have to wonder.
I will share all that I have with you: my love, talents, time, and belongings. What was once mine is now ours.
I love you, cherish you, and adore you. I respect, trust, and value you.
I love who you are now, and trust in who you are becoming.
I am yours forever.
These are the vows that I want to live out in my marriage with Denise. Each one has meaning to me in very real ways. I want Denise to know how much I love her, day after day, and to communicate that to her in my words, texts, actions and touch. So that Denise will never wonder if the love is still there or if anything has changed. I want her to see, feel, hear and know that always.
I want Denise to always know where I am. Not that she is asking for that, but that I want her to know that. That she can always text or call me, that I will be always available to her. That there will never be questions or wondering.
I will do my best to love and protect her tender, gentle and beautiful heart and our relationship. She has entrusted her heart to me, which is a very vulnerable thing to do, and I want never to harm her heart. Will things always be easy? No, but even in hard times, I want my love's heart to be safe and secure, as mine is with her. I want to have the hedges of protection around our relationship, doing the things that keep it safe from harm. Guarding by intentional actions our life together from any harm or intrusions.
I want to listen, to really listen, and when help is needed, to help, and to have the wisdom to know when each is best. Denise comes first in my life, before friends, movies, Bull's games, the super bowl or editing photos. As a man, it is easy to be task focused, but I want to not give into that temptation, but to always be there for Denise, to always be in the moment with her.
Denise has three wonderful kids, whom I get to be family with as well. I am getting to know them, and they are fascinating and fun kids, talented in their own ways. Many people, in a relationship after a divorce, say that the kids always come first. Denise and I have not looked at it that way,as a 'them vs us' issue where someone comes first or second, but rather, we are husband and wife, the two having become one. Part of our marriage are all 6 kids plus their spouses and partners. We don't have an issue of someone being first, but rather of figuring out how we love, serve and take care of each of the six plus kids that are part of our family. No one is first, but we are all family. I am not in competition with her kids, but am loving and serving them as I do my own. Denise moved 1400 miles to be with me, and it is my desire and honor to serve her and them in maintaining the closeness of their relationship across the miles.
There is a section of the Bible that talks about the man's role in a marriage. I think that it is often overlooked in discussions of roles in marriage. It tells me that I am to love Denise as Christ loved the church, that I am to love her as I love myself. When the time came, Jesus gave Himself up for the good of the church. That is the way I want to love and serve Denise, to be willing to give myself up for her needs. Will there be a heroic moment in time that I will need to give my life for hers? Possibly, but not likely, but will there be plenty of moments in time where her needs will be in conflict with my momentary wants. I want to love her in that sacrificial way in those times as well. To put aside my desires, my wants of the moment, to meet her needs. Maybe it is an ear to listen and a foot massage after a hard day, when the Cubs are in the World Series (ok, not in my lifetime, but you know what I mean). Maybe it is a trip back to Utah to see Bridger when I want to go to Lake Geneva. Whatever it is, with God's help, I want to live out God's instruction that I love her as Christ loved the church.
None of these are vows that Denise has asked for, but are expressions of my love and commitment to her, that I want to do with and for her as wel live out our married life together. And I am so fortunate in many ways, that she chose me, that she said yes when I asked and I do when Brian asked, and that now I am truly married to my best friend. And I look forward to living out these vows with her, my wonderful forever girl.