Begin Again

Begin Again

And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid

I think it's strange that you think I'm funny 'cause he never did

I've been spending the last eight months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end

On a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it Begin Again.

These words from the Taylor Swift song, Begin Again spoke to my heart this week. Beginning again is hard, was hard. It's been nearly 20 years of marriage with this man and a few carefully placed words from a song can still take me right back to those moments when I fell in love with him and realized there might be a new beginning, even for me.

When a relationship ends it's never simple. It's never painless. You are left with baggage to sort through any which way you slice it. Buried in the luggage of the past is blame. Usually enough to go around and bad decisions. If you have ever made a bad decision or maybe two, you know what I mean. I was there once.

When I had began dusting myself off, I felt like possibly the weakest, dumbest woman to ever walk the earth. I didn't have a family tree filled with happy marriages. I didn't even know many happily married people so I wasn’t really surprised by the ruins I saw all around me. At just 24 years old I believed all love ever did to a person was break, burn and end. I had decided that love and marriage was not for me. The only men in my life would be Jesus and my son. I had a Jesus take the wheel series of events that brought me to this place.

I would be single, probably forever. I didn’t trust any man and I think I trusted myself any less. Yep, that’s how I was going to do it.

Then, this man walked back into my life.

His laughter was contagious and it still is. He actually throws his head back, he laughs with his whole body and it fills the room. He was born to be joyful. I remembered that there was a time in my youth I was joyful too. Then, everyone thought I was hilarious, a class clown. But, just a few short years into adulthood had drained the silly string right out of my spirit. He made me laugh. He made me rediscover my own sense of humor, my sarcastic streak and he thought I was funny. I had forgotten so many pieces of who I was. As this first piece of me began to come back to life I started to feel like myself again.

He thought I was smart. I'd been beaten down for so long, treated like a second class citizen and made to feel as inadequate intellectually as you can imagine. Thinking about it now I can't even understand how I got to a place where I allowed another person's opinion of me to define me this way, but I did. It's a slow process, like the old analogy about boiling a frog, I just didn't feel the heat until it was too late.

Here was a man I respected, admired. I knew him to be educated, more so than I and yet he thought I was smart. weird. After some time in our courtship he said, off handedly almost, that I was the smartest person he'd ever met. I couldn't even process that kind of affirmation.

What came as the most startling surprise of all was the way he expressed his love, his affection for me. Love has always been a verb for him, from day one. He would get up hours earlier than he needed to just to bring me breakfast before work where I began at 7 am. He would notice things I liked and he would pick them up for me. He listened when I talked and he would come back days later and ask me how things went or how it had worked out.

He did the strangest thing, he He got permission from my boss once and borrowed her keys to decorate my work for my birthday in a crepe paper explosion. He would leave notes and gifts in my office, play practical jokes on me. He left notes on my car. He would draw pictures for me and fax them to me all day. He bought me flowers and cards all the time. He wrote me poems. What? Is? Happening?

This man was head over heels in love with me. It was unspoken, it was only expressed in acts of love. He treated me as if I were a treasure, someone to be cherished, and worthy of his time, affection, attention and sacrifice.

I fell in love with him when I first set eyes on him but I didn't acknowledge it. He was tall, handsome, sexy, funny and made me feel at ease immediately.

I couldn't allow myself to fall for him. I had sworn off men. I rejected him for a good while. I promised him, he would be my very best friend but I couldn't ever be more.

I had two little ones. They were my whole world. My priority. I’d already messed so much up. The last thing I would ever do was to take a chance on someone for my own happiness. No.

He persisted. He said he would wait and he did.

In that time, he was my rock. He was the man I could depend on any time day or night with any need. He was my emotional support. He was my closest, dearest friend. He was the crazy-fun friend of mom's that my children adored. He was a jungle gym for my young son to climb on and play video games with and a master at playing baby dolls or Blue's Clues with my baby girl. He was content to be someone in their lives they could count on, he was perfectly happy being Steve. He didn't want to change them, discipline them or fix them. He just loved them and thought they were amazing. He was right.

Every wall in my heart was broken down, I was in love. I was scared to death of it. I was in love, true love for the first time in my life. I didn't know love like this existed. Honestly I don't know if many people know the kind of love I'm talking about. Unspoken. But as real and as essential as the air around me. All that was left was thin fa├žade of fear and doubt. A paper mask.

He asked me out on a "date". I laughed because we spent most all our free time together already. He moved in closer and kissed me and asked me again. I told him, something we said often, "I love you, you know that, you're my best friend" then I said, "and if you told me you wanted to date a girl like me with all this baggage I would tell you run! You've never been married, you're young. You do not need a lifetime of complications."

His response, changed the course of my life.

"He said if by complications, you mean the kids, they are not complications. They are perfect. I want them too." He said, "I don't want to change you or them. I’m not goint to pretend like I know how to raise kids, I don't. I don't know anything about it. But you do." (and here is the part where the ground underneath me shook) He said, "You're the best mother I've ever seen. I don't know anyone who loves their kids more than you do. You are already a family and I just want to be part of it."

My husband is also a writer, a better one than me truth be told. He knows how to communicate, writing dialogue is his strong suit. He crafts words that pierce your soul. He was taking his best shot at getting through to me and he knew what he needed to say and how he needed to say it to me. He had run it through in his head till it was right.

And that was the last time I ever resisted him.

Our love story moved quickly. We had known each other since high school, our best friends had gotten married. We were neighbors. We'd been friends for a long time, best friends for a year. Once our “couple hood” was established he proposed not long after and we have been living our happily ever after every single day since.

How can I describe to you how much I love him? Our love has grown into something so beautiful. We are passionate about each other still. Even more than in the early days. We crack each other up, we are the very best of friends. We date, we have adventures, we try new things, we are complete geeks and we celebrate our Geek Life together proudly.

I can't stay mad at him. I try.

I know it's hard to imagine he ever does anything wrong but he's still a guy! I look at his face and he says he's sorry - and he always says he's sorry - because again, he's amazing and how can I be mad at him? I see 20 years of love and sacrifice written in his face. I would forgive him anything and I know I would never ever need to forgive him anything of consequence.

We are devoted to one another. Faithful without question, beyond reproach. We are open books and we hide nothing. We share everything.

If I haven't regaled you enough with the character and love of the man I get to call sweetheart let me tell you the rest of the story?

After a year of marriage he saw how hard it was for me working and managing the home and kids. I had some health issues I was struggling with as well. He wanted to provide for me in a way that let me be the mom I wanted to be and tended to my health. I made more money back then, changing the script was not going to be easy. He told me over coffee one morning that he was thinking he should join the military. Full benefits, housing, medical (which I needed) and money for him to finish school and get a Master's. Build a new life for us. A few months later it was all happening. USAF. Moving. College. Excellent Training as a Biomedical Technician.

We converted to Catholicism together during our engagement and rooted our marriage and our family deeply in the love of Christ and obedience to living as God called us to in His Word and His Church. Within two years of our marriage the kids asked if it was okay if they called him, daddy.

I asked him what he thought of it and he said, "I don't care what they call me. If they call me Steve forever all that matters to me is what 'Steve' means to them. If they know Steve is the man who will do anything for them, protect them, and love them. I'm good with Steve. If they want to call me dad, I'll work the rest of my life to earn it." He was dad from then on out and I promise you he has earned it.

It was years, maybe 3 or 4 years before he ever even asked them to clean up their toys. I did the discipline while they got to know him and love him. There was never some expectation that this is the man mom chose so get onboard and deal with it. Not at all. He knew instinctively that for us to have any chance of being a family they had to choose to love him all on their own.

Even all these years later, I take the lead on harder stuff. He is their soft place to fall. They respect him and love him. They know his values and that he backs me, so there was never a divided front. I have told him many times he should write a book on how to grow into parenthood the way he did. The kids love him, he is dad. No court ever had to tell him how much money to spend on the kids, or force him to provide for their needs, their wants, their passions, their hobbies and interests. No court ordered how much time he should spend with them. He spoiled them with time. He provided for their every need.

Life keeps coming because real love stories happen in the real world, this isn’t a fairytale, it just feels like one sometimes. Lest you think we just waltzed into a sunset. We had a war, a deployment, military separations for duty. A hurricane where we lost everything (Katrina). A diagnosis, MS. We lost 4 babies along the way but gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who is 16 now. Life has had it’s challenges.

Steve, who would tell you he was a bit lost in life when we met, has accomplished so much. He was working at a Video Store when we met up again. He has finished 2 Associates degrees, a Bachelor's, a Master's in Business and is working on another Master's presently. He is a Biomedical Field Engineer and is focused and successful. Turned out I had a little something that he needed as well and I helped him begin again too.

As I looked through the library of photos of us I can't help but notice how physically close we always are. If we could always be within arms reach of one another we would be so happy.

Our family has roots that run deep in faith, love, laughter, respect, commitment and joy. Life is not about a pursuit of happiness. What a fleeting thing to live for.

Our ideas about what will make us happy are a pale, pathetic excuse for the plans for our great joy that Our Father has for us. When I stopped seeking my ways and started seeking His I found love everlasting. I found a man who seeks His Father's will and would do much more than take a bullet for me or the kids, much more!

Instead of making lofty grandiose statements that fade he chooses instead to quietly lay down his life every single day for me, his Bride. He sacrifices unconditionally for our children. He is good and kind. He has never ever, in 20 years used a curse word even in my direction. He doesn’t make idols of hobbies, friends, vanity or ambition. He cares for me when I'm sick and he will be my side always. Only death will part us for a time. He is my king and sometimes I refer to him that way when I write (oh how some people hate the sound of that). He is, and you'll get no apologies here. I serve him. I am happy to do whatever he needs. He treats me like a queen, cherished and my joy is in loving him and raising a family that brings him honor and abiding joy.

I never imagined a love like this. I do not deserve it. I'm thankful to God who is merciful and does not give me what I deserve but instead rains grace over my life. He gave me new life in Him and a new beginning.

This is our family. Our first granddaughter, a daughter in law and new son in law in just two more months. My cup runneth over. We worked, we sacrificed, we prayed without ceasing. This was the life I was given when I got to Begin Again. Thanks be to God.