Taylor, for your wedding

Taylor,

The highest honor I have ever been afforded was to baptize you when you gave your life to Christ. One of my greatest privileges will be to see you give your hand in marriage. I am thrilled for you. You have had a special place in my heart all these years. You’re constantly on my mind and in my prayers. So it’s a huge comfort to know you have found the perfect man for you.

Marriage advice is not hard to find. But the greatest way to learn is through experience: failures and victories, stumbles and success. Rarely are words worth more than the paper they’re written on, but maybe it won’t hurt for me to try anyway. Distance has kept us from having regular conversations, otherwise, most of this would’ve already been spoken. Still, I’d like to give my perspective of marriage, as much as 14 years experience has given me, and hopefully, it inspires your relationship.

The major benefit/blessing to marriage is companionship. It may even be the entire purpose God intended. To know someone will be home when I get there; to have someone to drive to the store with, sit next to at church, to walk beside, to watch TV beside, to watch the sunset beside, to sit together comfortably in silence, to have so much to say to each other there’s not enough time in the day for it. It’s like having money in the bank at all times. In the worst of circumstances, I know in the back of my mind that I have her.

There’s no secret to making a marriage last; you just do it. The fact you dated means you like each other; step one. Now what? Commitment. Both sides. If both are truly committed, there’s nothing short of dying that could tear you away. I remember before we were even engaged, Heather pretty much threatened me with an “end it now or never” agreement. I happily obliged to stay. I don’t remember our wedding vows verbatim, but I know them in summary: I’m committed to her forever. And I have a ring I never take off that’s a reminder to me and symbol to everyone else of that promise.

Sure promises can be broken. Too many marriages have failed. You have to be intentionally and perpetually committed. Every morning, every night, after every fight, and every blissful moment. We saw too many couples split up; surprisingly many were friends of ours in the first few years after we were married. After every instance, Heather grabs my hand and sincerely asks, “are we good?” Sometimes I mess with her and say “depends on what’s for dinner.” (not advisable). Most of the time I know she’s serious then reassure her “we’re good.”

Learn how to fight. Disagreements will happen. You put two people together for that amount of time, someone’s going to disagree with the temperature of the room or how to handle money. So when it happens, it’s best to know how to deal with it. Understand how the other one handles an argument. It’s possible one wants to talk it out and the other needs to cool off first. Some say more than they mean, some say nothing and keep it inside. Don’t manipulate. Ask for advice if needed, but don’t speak ill of each other (even jokingly). Compromise. Be open and honest. Honest: don’t say things you don’t mean, do say the things you should.

Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. It keeps you going. Actually, it seems to center you back to where you belong. It reminds you of the dating days. Life will get mundane at times and laughing is the spark that recalls all the reasons you’re in this relationship. It makes you sigh with relief. In marriage, it’s a smile not just at the moment, but for the life you’re living.

Need each other. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit you need, but a humble awareness that together you’re stronger, better. Both of you have strengths and weaknesses that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle; two pieces that don’t fit or belong anywhere else. And if you have children in the future, may they be an extension of the strong relationship you’ve already created.

Build each other up. Enjoy life together. Be on the same page. Don’t expect too much. Have each other’s interests in mind. Surprise. Delight. Enjoy. Never take it for granted. Put God first. Love down to your core. Love to the point words can’t describe it.

Enjoy your wedding day and every day after. Marriage is the best. May yours feel like a dream come true, and every day you pinch yourself knowing yours is the kind to thrive for a lifetime.

A Rose A Day

February was approaching and I knew that I had two dates that I shouldn’t screw up. First was our dating anniversary. Two. Whole. Months. Yes, when dating, you celebrate benchmarks the same way you give a baby’s age: by months. “My baby’s 20-months-old.” No, he’s not. People just don’t math like that. You can choose between a “year-and-a-half” or “almost-two.” Ok? After a year, month-counting should fade away. Anyway, our dating anniversary was the 4th. It was only two months, so there’s the decision of how big this celebration should be. Just dinner? An actual gift? Like, a card? Fake jewelry? (cause this broke college kid ain’t buying much over $20).

Then BAM! It hit me. “I’ll get her flowers, but we also have Valentine’s Day coming up. Do I buy them twice?” This is where goofy, undateable Jared turned into the charming romantic we all know and love today. I bought a dozen flowers and kept them in my dorm. The morning of the 4th, I surprised her with a rose. “Aw, you remembered our dating anniversary!” Yes. Yes, I did. Then on the morning of the 5th, I gave her another rose. “What? Why? You just gave me one!” I know, oh yes, I know. Then at various times of day and different places I would give her another of the dozen each day all the way up to Valentine’s. And I’ve done the same thing. From the 4th to the 14th. Every year. For 16 years.

*drops mic, walks off stage*

Genius #1: Cost savings (let’s be honest). It’s just one bunch of flowers. No vase or arrangement needed.

Genius #2: Taking what would’ve been a single happy moment of delivering flowers, and making it exponentially better. Not only just 11 times more because it’s one a day, but even more so because it’s unique.

Genius #3: It doesn’t matter that I’m doing the same thing every year. Many times she forgets about it and creates a delightful surprise. Plus it gives me something easy to remember to do every year.

Genius #4: It’s totally fun. I love the creative aspect. When am I going to sneak it to her today? One day this year I left it in the snow on her windshield. Another day I dropped it off at her work before she arrived. (Trying to think how to attach a rose to the baby without him eating it).

A slight downside is now that I’ve done it for so long, I have to always do it, and it’s difficult to always remember. I was late by a day or two a couple years ago. Sometimes I’ve chosen a less-than-optimal time to give one. Like this year, I picked an unwise time of day. I gave her the first one when the baby woke up crying in the middle of the night. Quote “HUH!? uhg.. jared… *sigh* you’re ridiculous.” Once I snuck a rose over the shower curtain. Side note: my wife does not like being scared. I repeat, does not.

And just today she was at home alone when the delivery truck for the dishwasher came. They had to turn off the main water valve, which is where I keep my stash of flowers. Busted.

I haven’t always been the best at doing something special on Valentine’s night either. There’s a whole lot of pressure here. You’ve heard it said that Valentine’s was created just as a marketing scheme to get guys to buy stuff. I haven’t ruled that idea out. But for many years, I had a second job that forced me to work on the 14th. Having kids just makes it that much more difficult. Mostly because you don’t want to ask someone “Hey, you’re not doing anything for Valentine’s. Wanna babysit?”

We’ve managed to make the best out of it. Alternate days, lunch not dinner, some creative desserts, and dusting off the china.

So if I had any tips for guys:

This not-always-perfect Valentine’s works for us because we’re doing well as a couple the other 364 days of the year. (Well, maybe like 352 days). One superficial holiday is not going to mend underlying problems.

Do your thing. Don’t do my idea or anyone else’s. You have a unique relationship and it calls for something more than simply taking her to a restaurant.

But also, make sure you still do Valentine’s. Don’t brush it off. You can’t skip it. Even if she tells you to and she’s not “that kind of girl.” You have to do Valentine’s. Really. You have to. I’m not kidding.