Instead of Hallmark–An Anniversary Card to My Man

I awoke to these words singing in my subconscious, then smiled, remembering how well Jerry has loved me, and that today we celebrate 25 years of marriage:

Now you’re my whole life1597648_10202467803671428_1674233776_o
Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

As this date neared I thought of the times my dear husband had told me, wonder in his eyes, that while he thought he loved me the day we married, the love just keeps growing, and he doesn’t know how he can love me more, but it just keeps happening. And I remembered, the song “Then” recorded (and co-written) by Brad Paisley.

On Sunday we had some quiet moments while the kids were gone, and I played the ballad for him, suggesting we call it our anniversary song. He readily agreed. He was even a bit misty-eyed.

After cuddling while we listened to the song, we danced (very badly) to it right there in our living room.

Later, when I was alone, I took the original lyrics and played with them a bit:

I remember trying to wait while
You found your courage
You had me mesmerized
And on Fourth of July
In firecracker light
You finally decided to kiss goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet
I thought I loved you then

6680_1170830597178_3169494_n

1988

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

I remember Lake Tahoe Shore
Where you pledged to me your heart
Love in your blue eyes
Your voice the only sound
Showing me your care
And I said yes right then and there
And once again
I thought I loved you then

1989 wedding

1989 – I DO!

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

35319_100144653377668_6218392_n

I can just see you
Wrestling toddler’s in play
I can just see you
On our daughter’s wedding day
What I can’t see
Is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before

1005341_10151828387253179_1112987839_n

2013 – Sarah and Dad

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

2013 Sarah's wedding

And I thought I loved you then

People say 25 years of committed marriage is an accomplishment, but to me it is simply a gift. I’m not saying we didn’t put effort into this because we did. I’m not saying there weren’t hard times because there were. But always there has been love. Never once have I doubted I was your beloved. Never once have I questioned my decision to choose you.

paula and little ones

1998 – Mom with the little ones, ages 1 – 7

Those early years I worried I couldn’t love you enough. You were so giving, had such a servant heart. I must have prayed Proverbs 31 most every night for the first five years of our marriage, asking God to show me how to  bring you “good and not evil all the days” of your life. When you loved unconditionally, serving me with all you were, I worried I was selfish, and begged God to help me love you as well as you loved me. To cleanse me of selfishness.

After four little ones in six years, giving and giving beyond what I thought I could give, I quit praying that prayer!

When I was overwhelmed by the demands of nursing babies, toddlers whose diapers rattled as they ran up and down the hall, and preschoolers begging for just one more story, you’d smile at me over the tops of their downy heads, and I’d know I would make it.

Sometimes 2 or more children would pile in bed between us. We’d wrap our long legs around their sides and touch toes beneath them. Remember each other.

Those early years were a lot about me. You taught me to stand tall in who I was, not worrying about people-pleasing and performing and being perfect. You showed unconditional love. All you needed me to be was me. And slowly my tension disappeared, and I grew to be at peace with myself. I learned to protect my heart so it could become the well-spring of life it was designed to be.

2444_1100854396623_5130_n

2007 – Dad baptizes Sam

You weren’t the Bible-thumper with all the answers who checked off boxes with prescribed religious behavior. You lived your faith in love. You modeled gratitude to God and to me. (Every time one of the boys thanks me for dinner I am reminded that you taught them to notice and appreciate.)

No wonder our boys follow your example of loyalty and faith. No wonder our girl searched for a man with a heart like yours. Faithful. True. Both to God and his woman.

You were there for us.

Your quiet, steady leadership set the tone.

And as the kids grew you didn’t dictate religion or anything else. You asked them questions. Taught them to think for themselves. Expected them to forge their own journey with God rather than forcing them to look like you. You taught them to be real and dedicated.

And all of us grew.

There came a time it was my turn to be strong for you. Life hit hard: crashing, crushing hard. Your very life hung in the balance. After your heart surgery I crawled in right next to you in that hospital bed, laid my head upon your chest, and listened. Listened for a steady thumping. Knew I would never again take the sound of your beating heart for granted.

I prayed hard as you fought to come back to life in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes you would get a far away look in your eyes, and I would know your brush with death had changed you forever.

Changed us forever.

We shared fun moments. Coach pitch baseball where Sarah drew pictures in the dirt and Seth circled home plate, determined never to be tagged. Climbing mountains, Stephen in the carrier on your back, Sam in mine. The “big” kids running ahead. The children kept growing. Forts in the back yard changed to baseball diamonds which grew into obstacle courses. You drove Seth to those 6 a.m. hockey practices, letting me sleep. We both cheered when he experienced success–MVP, top teams choosing him. We yelled for Sarah at gymnastic meets and tried not to be too proud when she won awards there and in speech and debate. We grinned like crazy when Sam and Stephen were All-star team players in baseball. Whatever the kids accomplished we celebrated.

And even in this you would whisper to me to grow and expand and write and become fully me, not just fully mom.

When the kids (or you or me) didn’t come out on top we bought ice-cream, listened to each other’s pain. Sometimes cried for them. For us.

It’s what families do.

Our baby girl grew up, and we danced at her sweet sixteen party.

2007 Sarah's 16

2007 – Sarah Turns 16

Then life became a whirlwind of letting go as all four reached milestones, stretching their wings and leaving the caterpillar behind.

Dating and graduations and even a wedding.

dad talks to sarah (2)

2009 – Sarah graduates

255069_10150279777798179_2827058_n

2011 – Seth graduates

graduation - family

2014 – Stephen graduates

Grundy_051913_184845

2013 – Sarah and David Marry

2011 family pics

2011

And while life was so much about them, it was still about us.

You loved me.

Always.

Fat or skinny I was beautiful to you. You always said so.

You believed in me. Told me I was a writer. A speaker. A great mom.

The best wife.

And the years passed this way. You holding my hand. Taking walks with me. Kissing me in the kitchen to the moans of children who told us to “get a room.” Whisking me away when the chaos got too deep or the world too loud. Holding me in your arms and never letting me go.

If I ever finish this blog you’ll take me away again today. A few stolen moments for just two. We’ll stroll hand in hand, maybe listen to a little Brad Paisley as we drive to a restaurant, me wearing the new dress I bought just for this moment. It won’t be so much about what we do. It’ll be more about who we are together. We’ll talk about the kids, how our whole world is changing, but we’ll talk about us, too. How the more we change, the more we stay the same, only deeper. Deeper in love. Deeper in us.

10005872_10203091118453908_7194573725154009844_o

2014 – Us (and the kids) in our 25th year

Sweet, precious Jerry,

Thank you for marrying me.

All my love,

moldenhauer signature3

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15 thoughts on “Instead of Hallmark–An Anniversary Card to My Man

  1. paulfg June 11, 2014 at 10:10 pm Reply

    What a wonderfully open celebration of love. What a beautiful thing to read. What beautiful pictures to enjoy. I tried writing something similar – and found clumsiness and crass phrases instead. You do it right. Thank you for sharing such a precious journey.

    • Paula Moldenhauer June 12, 2014 at 10:39 pm Reply

      Thanks, Paul. It was from my heart to my honey–and I’ll bet YOUR honey would love anything you wrote from yours to hers!!

  2. Sheila Stacy June 12, 2014 at 4:11 am Reply

    Beautiful!!

  3. Cynthia June 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm Reply

    Beautiful. You write so beautifully. I cried through the whole thing. You are so blessed.

  4. Paula Moldenhauer June 12, 2014 at 10:42 pm Reply

    Cynthia, You are so right. I am blessed to have Jerry’s love. My heart weeps over women who have not known faithful love. My husband’s love is imperfect, but never inconstant, and his heart is always for his family. I hold no illusions that this is anything but a precious gift to be treasured. I’m grateful this was meaningful to you. May you be blessed. Hugs to you my friend.

  5. Rebekah June 14, 2014 at 12:14 am Reply

    What a beautiful tribute, Paula. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Paula Moldenhauer June 14, 2014 at 12:40 am Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, Rebekah.

      • Rebekah June 14, 2014 at 12:45 am

        It was one of those posts that was so crammed full of wisdom and sentiment that I just didn’t have much to say because I had to just appreciate it and let it soak in. And I almost forgot…Happy Anniversary!

  6. Paula Moldenhauer June 14, 2014 at 12:54 am Reply

    WOW! Thank you. It was my heart poured out . . . we had a wonderful anniversary. Pretty laid back but full of special treats for the two of us. I’m so grateful for that day!

  7. mariekeates June 14, 2014 at 7:05 am Reply

    Beautiful. Congratulations on 25 years 🙂

  8. […] I entrust you into the hands of the man who has taken good care of me. I know Jerry will be faithful and loyal to those of you who choose to journey with him. His track record is proven by the loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness the kids and I have enjoyed the last 25 years. […]

  9. isaiah41v10 June 27, 2014 at 8:06 am Reply

    Beautiful post! what a lovely tribute to your husband. I love what you said about how he lives his faith. “Expected them to forge their own journey with God rather than forcing them to look like you.”
    Congratulations and happy anniversary. 🙂
    God bless the two of you.

  10. […] We wore our Hawaiian attire just ’cause we could. For a joke in a way. A celebration of the memories of 25 years of marriage. […]

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