Happy 12th Anniversary, Jewls
I still remember it like it was yesterday, that hot August 12th in 2000, when you walked with your mom and dad down the stairs of the open auditorium of In Pursuit Camps in Seymour, Indiana. It was the day we said "yes" to a lifetime together. Your face, your dress, your eyes said everything. You were radiant, pure, beautiful, gentle, and ready to begin the journey of a lifetime.
That day was the culmination of more than three years of dating after meeting in college. It was a big step that we did not take lightly. We knew that the journey of two lives becoming one, bridging two cultures, and merging two languages would have its challenges. You wrestled for a while, and so did I. For a time, you played hard to get, and I think I even got you back once—just for a moment. Above all, we both wanted to follow God's path for us and not be an obstacle in each other’s life.
In time, God answered our prayers and confirmed our "yes" to each other. We discovered that neither of us could be without the other, even if we tried. I could not get away from you and be happy. We'd both gone to Anderson University for a degree, but we ended up with much more than that: We found each other.
You loved the outdoors, so we decided to keep things simple with a wedding under the morning sun. Our family was there. Friends came to support us. Our friend Mark and my dad led the ceremony. Our groomsmen and bridesmaids were dressed for the occasion. And you and I both sweated so much that I am still trying to cool off. I still feel sorry for everybody sitting in the sun and getting sunburned by the end of the ceremony.
We washed each other’s feet during our wedding ceremony to symbolize the way we desired to live out our commitment to each other and to our calling. You had service on your mind. Marriage was about serving God and each other. It was not so much about what you or I could get out of it, but about how we could help each other to become the woman and man that God intended.
After the ceremony, the staff and friends at the camp surprised us with a hot-air balloon ride, which almost took us to Kentucky because the pilot did not have a place to land. I was ready to jump out of the balloon. We landed in a farmer’s backyard, and everyone cheered. It was quite the surprise for people watching TV in their house to suddenly see this massive balloon landing outside.
We had embarked on the journey of a lifetime, and August 12th became one of our favorite days of the year. You loved to be surprised with either a special outing or just something custom planned. But regardless of whether we celebrated our anniversary in a simple or extravagant fashion, you embraced my way of expressing my love for you because you loved me, unconditionally.
Over the years, God was good to us. We dreamed of growing old together and sitting under the oak that we planted in our front yard when my grandmother Emilie turned 100. This tree became a solid reminder to us of our commitment to each other and to God.
Of course, we had our bumps in the road. There were days when you probably wanted to send me out for a jog. Indeed, when we needed some space from each other, jogging or biking seemed to be a great outlet for some stress or just a good opportunity to think about how to resolve our differences. Our struggles brought us closer to each other. We desired to grow as a couple through anything that came our way. Seeing families destroyed by so many of today's issues, we fought very hard to avoid going down the same path.
We wanted anything that came our way to be a stepping stone to a stronger marriage. Whether times were easy or hard, I appreciated so many things about you, Julie:
1. You were intentional about our relationship. Thank you.
2. You were proactive about learning to do new things, such as speak Spanish or cook. Thank you.
3. You worked on being a good hostess, so important in Latin America, even though that was not one of your gifts, as you often shared. Thank you.
4. You were constantly learning. It made for some very fun conversations around the table. Thank you.
5. You cared for Timi and Anahi. You wanted our children to grow up with a mommy and a daddy as their first influence. Thank you.
6. You focused on me. You knew my likes and dislikes. You found running shoes on sale, shirts, and racing equipment. You loved giving gifts. You came alongside me and made sure that I was okay. Thank you.
7. You never forgot family birthdays or special occasions. You pushed for family celebrations. Thank you.
8. You loved sitting and spending time with me and asking me how my day went. I miss that so much. Thank you.
I am in Orlando today, Julie, celebrating the life that God gave us together with the family here. On the drive down, I had the chance to spend time in the beautiful mountains of Tennessee. You would have loved it. Each day I was there, I could just hear you saying, "Norb, look at that unique bird," or, "See that funny-shaped flower?" I could hear you saying, "Norb, this is life." We saw so many beautiful places together. I would have loved to continue seeing and climbing more mountains with you.
I will miss you today, Julie. I will miss your spontaneous laughter as you looked forward to a special event. I will miss you looking into my eyes and saying, "Norb, I love you." And I will miss telling you how much I love you and how much I love being married to you.
Happy 12th anniversary, Julie. I will never forget you.