Hello! Welcome to my thoughts! 🙂

Brian and I went on a date on Saturday! One of his co-workers got married and my love asked me to be his date to the wedding! It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony on a stunning ranch near Paris, Texas. I love weddings! I can’t help but think of our wedding day, how in love we were, how high we were up on cloud nine. Truth be told, 16 years in and I am more in love with my husband than I have ever been; including the wedding day!

Marriage is not always all sunshine and roses, though, and along with somewhere around 50% of our country, I came from a “broken home.” Brian did too. It was something that we worked/are working hard to avoid in our lives. We take our vows very seriously and we know that we need Jesus in our marriage more than anything else in the world. When I was just about two years old, my biological parents divorced. Even though I don’t remember any of this particular event, I do know, with absolute 100% certainty, that the divorce was absolutely one of the best things that my mom ever did for us. There are times when “breaking up the family” truly is the BEST thing for every one involved. I have literally thanked my mom several times over the years for making that decision and doing what was best for us.

There were a few years in between the divorce and the next time I had contact with B.D. (bio-dad). I feel like maybe it was one of those “out of sight, out of mind” kind of situations with him. I believe that I was coming up on six years old when I saw him again. I had no clue who he was. I was looking at this very large man, who was sitting in a chair, at the local bowling alley telling me that he was my dad and I wouldn’t go near him. I believe he eventually bribed me with $5 to stand near him and talk to him. After that five minute encounter, it was a couple of years before I saw him again. We just kept having this round about game of “He’s around,” “Nope, he’s gone again,” for my entire childhood.

I was three months beyond turning six years old when my mom met the true love of her life; the man that came into our lives and never stepped back out. I came across this the other day when I was looking to see what was saved on various jump drives. It was written by my dad. It’s partially a “timeline” of their relationship/life together, and partially a letter directed to my mom. I could write this story, or I could let you read it…straight from the heart of the man who wrote it. To say that my dad was SMITTEN with my mom would be an understatement of epic proportions!

“I remember that smoked filled bowling alley, in Decatur, TX, that Saturday night. There was to be a colored pin tournament; bowling for money, I was good at it and I was ready to win. I bought my tickets, found my lane and placed my bowling balls on the auto-return tray. As I took my seat behind the ball return, I happened to glance over and recognize one of the top bowlers from Bowie, Doug Brickey. We got along really well and liked to win money bowling together. There happened to be this gorgeous, 10+ woman sitting with Doug and his wife, Darlene. I didn’t know this woman, but I wanted to; so I paid the guy on the lane in between us to switch places with me. I glanced over at you and you smiled at me…Oh, crap! I thought. What is wrong with me?! I didn’t even know you, but you had all of my bells going off! I was all flustered and didn’t really know what to do next. Luckily, the lights went low in the bowling alley and the tournament began.”

He continues, “Part of the way into the tournament, I finally just walked over and introduced myself to this 10+! I found out that your name was Rhonda, you had a whole mess of kids (4 to be exact) and we chatted the evening away. I devised a plan to try to get you to go out with me. I set up my best line: “If I hit this next shot, will you go on a date with me?!” You said yes, I hit the shot, and we went to dinner after the tournament. Your parents were there, too and they were so easy to talk to; I enjoyed spending time with them. It was you, though, that had my attention stuck to you like you were a magnet. After we finished our late night dinner, I drove you home to your parents’ house, where we sat and drank coffee and talked well into the morning. On the porch, I kissed you and asked if I could have another date.”

This was not a matter of “scoring” on a 10+ ~ this was pure love at first sight. Can I tell you how that works? No, but I can tell you what it looks like, what it feels like, and the dream state that comes with every minute.

“From this point on, the though of NOT marrying you, was not an option. It was a done deal long before I could even acknowledge it.

Rhonda, do you remember? You personally could not have cared less about bowling…until I gave you your first personalized ball; then you got serious! What guy wouldn’t LOVE to have his wife “in to” their sport? You got so good, so fast. It was a thrill to support and watch you. Frankly, it boosted my ego big time to have my wife becoming such a strong bowler.”

First Christmas together…a bowling shirt!

As things became more serious between them, he said “I remember asking you, early on in our relationship, “What do you want for yourself and your kids? I also remember the answer; “Not money or a big house, I need love and support and help raising these kids.”

Very early on in their marriage

I did my absolute best to support you in everything. You went college to get your degree in Cosmetology. I had the privilege of watching you grow and gain a lot of self respect, confidence and belief in yourself. You wanted it, you went for it, and you completed it. I hope you know I was your biggest cheerleader. I was so proud of you when you finished.”

I’ve always loved the fact that my parents were happily married for 73 years before dad passed away. I wanted a marriage like that…LONG like that. I never backed away from what I though would allow you understand how much I loved you.

“2007 found us moving from the farm in Bells, to the house in Denison. My health started to decline and just kept getting worse. 2012, 2013, and part of 2014 was living from hospital to hospital and fighting disease, infection, heart problems, lung problems, etc. Looking at it now, it seems as though life robbed us of what should have been those ‘golden years.'”

“So life has shifted for both of us, my sweet bride. I’ve spent years look for my healing this side of heaven; it doesn’t look like it coming.

“Mostly, my dear wife, what hurts the most is knowing that my declining health has robbed you. I robbed years away from your happiness and that hurts. It’s left a mark on you and for that I’m sorry. You have been the perfect wife. You never backed up and surly I would have died by now had it not been for your positive thinking, constant vigilance, compassion, care, and action.”

“I believe God has work for us in our garden. I’m not sure what that is, but I guess we’ll see it together. The vows still work today: I, Jay, take you, Rhonda, as my lawful wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better/for worse, for richer/for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death do us part. Amen”

“So today, on our Anniversary, I need you to know that I love you beyond what you understand. I thank you for being you and I’ll always think you are the sexiest choice for me. Love forever; Jay”

Beginning in my teenage years, when I was old enough to really understand, I decided that I was going to have a marriage like theirs. Their devotion to one another, their commitment to their vows, their belief that divorce was not an option, their relentlessness in working to support and encourage one another through all of their ups and downs. That’s what Brian and I continue to strive for every day.

In His Grip,