I was 20 years old. I loved Christmas. So it was fitting that we chose the week before Christmas to exchange vows and formalize the love we felt for one another.

Rodney and I were married under the garnishment of poinsettias and red bridesmaid dresses, with him handsomely sporting his tux and I wearing a dress handmade by his sister. We gathered in a near-empty church and dedicated our lives to each other in front of God.

Looking back, even though Rodney was six years older, we were both children. Many people thought we wouldn’t last, but we each took our vows seriously and knew – good or bad – we would stick it out to the end.

We were young and poor and in love. That first year saw us living in a basement apartment, me finishing my bachelor’s degree, and Rodney finally realizing his dream by working as photographer for a newspaper.

We decided we wanted to start a family right away, both wanting two children. A year and 11 days after committing our lives to one another, we welcomed our firstborn son into the world, albeit a bit unconventionally with a midwife at home. We never knew we could love someone so much, but Tyler filled us with unexplainable happiness.

We thought our lives couldn’t get much better, but then four years and eight months later, our second son, Zachary, arrived and brought more joy and love into our lives than we could possibly have imagined.

I want to share some moments in our lives, times we have been through, memories we have and reflections:

  • Living on Spam, macaroni and cheese, and Kool-Aid, all which I regularly threw up after becoming pregnant with Tyler.
  • Learning to live with another person and getting used to their habits and those things that make you want to pull your hair out, like how they fold clothes.
  • Furnishing our new home with a second- or third-hand couch that had stuffing sticking out and a wire spool for a table.
  • Working at competing newspapers, and then making the tough decision to take a job that forced us to live apart for nine months, followed by another job that put us in different states for another two months.
  • Blowing more tires and getting more flats than one couple should, and having the oddest vehicles imaginable, including the extended Econoline van with only the front two seats, the passenger one which wasn’t even bolted on (found that one out the hard way), and a Buick with a duct-taped windshield to keep it from leaking (one year Rodney got multi-colored duct tape for Christmas so he could change the colors).
  • Suffering through too many moves to a variety of different homes… boxes and boxes of books and an enormous upright antique piano (that, unfortunately, got left in a garage because we couldn’t get help moving it) and finally arriving at the point where we couldn’t beg, bribe or blackmail any of our friends and family into helping us again.
  • Sacrificing jobs and wants for the betterment of the family, making sure we stayed active in our children’s lives, and ensuring God and our family came before anything else, whether it be job, friends or monetary success.
  • Being side by side, supporting each other no matter the venture, and when two dreamers get married, there can be a lot of adventure: such things as a countless array of home-based businesses, a racing magazine, a photography studio, and ministry. We’ve been through a lot of dreams together, and I suspect there will be many more.
  • Welcoming new members of the family and children of friends… and saying goodbye to so many loved ones, like Granny, Mamaw and Aunt Ruth, just to name a few.
  • Enduring unemployment, underemployment and jobs that ripped at our nerves and souls.
  • Laughing and crying together… more laughing than crying… but when crying, knowing that the other one was right there to comfort and join in, if necessary, and sometimes laughing to keep from crying.
  • Growing up… and growing old… together.

My life is so full and I’m honored to have Rodney share the past 22 years of marriage with me. I know married people often refer to each other as best friends, and it is true, Rodney IS my best friend. I can tell him everything and anything, although he often tells me that every thought that comes into my head doesn’t have to come out my mouth. I know that I have a partner in this life, a partner who God had planned for me long before I was born. I’m just thankful I found him.

We’ve been through bad times, but the magnitude of the good times far outweighs those, and our blessings are so great. We created the two most amazing human beings on this planet. And we are complete partners in this experience called life.

When we married, we promised each other 80 years, so I look forward to the next 58 years with the love of my life.

Rodney, I will love you forever and ever… amen.