Thursday, June 17, 2010

20 Years ("It Did")

20 years ago yesterday (June 16th, 1990), I married the love of my life in a Baptist church in Ft. Worth, TX. (OK, if you want to be picky, it was actually in North Richland Hills, a suburb of Ft. Worth... sheesh.) Right after giving my heart & life to Jesus Christ, it's the best decision I've made in my life.

When we met, she was just 18 years old, a college freshman... and I was working on my third year of seminary. Shari remembers my hands shaking when I gave her information on how to get to my apartment for the young adult small group we were starting. (I don't remember that, btw - but she was pretty and that could have definitely made me nervous.)

We talked on the phone after that first Bible study... one of those long, wonderful conversations where it feels like the person has been your best friend for years. At the end of the conversation, I asked her to go see a Tim Miner concert with me at Footloose.

Yes, it was the 80's, so the local Christian club in D/FW called themselves "Footloose" (six degrees of Kevin Bacon, anyone?!) We watched a great show (Tim, being a local guy, had a big band and dancers, which wasn't a typical "Footloose" show)... and in the rush of the crowd leaving, I took her hand.

We ate at Chili's for dinner... and that's when I found out that she was just 18 years old. As I had been giving my roommate (and eventual best man) a hard time for scamming on a 19 year old girl from church (who married him!), I knew I was in trouble. That was November 4th, 1988.

After a few more dates, our first kiss came as I was leaving for Thanksgiving... and (fast-forwarding through a great story about Shari breaking up with me and then her mom inviting me in for apple pie that I need to tell y'all later) by my mom's 50th birthday dinner on Coronado Island (at the Hotel Del in the Five Crowns room), I was sure enough of where I wanted this relationship to go to tell my dad that I thought I'd met the girl I would end up marrying.

Happily, I was right. But it was still a long road to get there.

Without going into details, our dating relationship was not particularly healthy. We struggled with sexual stuff, we were over-the-top emotional about "the status of our relationship," and we broke up two different times on our way to getting engaged. Frankly, if I as a pastor now was counseling the young couple that was Shari & I, I'd probably encourage the two of us seriously reconsider our plans to marry.

In the midst of all the turmoil and junior-high-quality "drama", however, was two people who really wanted to draw close to God. And, more importantly, a God who drew close to us through His death on the cross, His resurrection, the presence of the Holy Spirit & the counsel of Scripture.

On New Year's Eve 1990, two sets of friends from our small group got engaged - both of them to people they'd met through newspaper personal ads! We followed suit a few weeks later... and I gave her the engagement ring in March, just before I left to become youth pastor at First Baptist Church, Fordyce, Arkansas. (We saw The Little Mermaid that night... then went to the park and had Communion together as our first act as an engaged couple.)

I had decided I was only coming back to Ft. Worth once (for a wedding) before Shari & I got married - I ended up coming back three times plus that final, wonderful trip to finally marry my beautiful bride.

There are lots of stories that fit into those final days:
  • my bachelor's party, complete with video games, go-karts & a trophy for being the "Best Groom!"
  • Shari & her mom shopping for her Peignoir set and ending up meeting some very interesting people (you need for Shari to tell you this story!)
  • Shari learning first hand about what it's like to ride in a car with my dad

But the things I remember best are the day of the wedding:

  • hiding my car with Tim so it wouldn't get "decorated"
  • laughing with Tim & Keith as we got dressed while Mark, my brother-in-law to be, videotaped us
  • my sister & Bill Taylor singing at the wedding
  • the dread on the faces of Shari's bridesmaids (still don't understand that to this day... Jenn & Tracey are two wonderful people that we still keep in touch with... but they looked like someone had shot their dog as they came down the aisle)
  • my eldest niece, Rebecca, walking down the aisle not actually throwing out any flower petals.... then handing me the basket so she could suck her thumb
  • my bride walking down the aisle on her dad's arm, smiling with such joy
  • the two of us giggling as we figured out how long the bridge of "I Will Be Here" is when you're trying to stand there and look deeply into each other's eyes
  • the wedding photographer griping at us for kissing each other so much

And so much more...

That was 20 years ago... and I am still deliriously happy to be married to my wonderful, godly, beautiful wife. She is my friend, my encourager, the mother of my boys, the voice of wisdom when I go haywire, a gift from God and my true companion.

I still make mix tapes for her - a tradition that goes back to our dating years. (Only now they're mix CD's... which I also burn onto her iPod. Times change, eh?) I found a new song this last week that captures perfectly how I feel after 20 years with Shari Jo.

A single red rose and a table for two

A nice chardonnay and an ocean view

Ships coming in and stars coming out

We sat and we talked till the place closed down

Then we took a long walk down on the beach

Her and that white dress and her bare feet

We stopped and we watched the lighthouse light

I pulled her close and I held on tight

And I said to myself

"It doesn’t get better than this

"No, it doesn’t get better than this"

And it did, it did, oh it did.

Fast forward to that next spring

We were looking for a preacher

Picking out rings

Family coming in and friends coming out

To that little white church on the outskirts of town

Me in that tux fighting butterflies

Tears of joy in my mama’s eyes

Her daddy walking her down the aisle

He lifted that veil and I saw that smile

And I said to myself

"It doesn’t get better than this

"No, it doesn’t get better than this"

But it did, it did, oh it did

Just when I start thinking it's as good as it can get

This crazy life does something just to let me know

I haven’t seen anything yet

Nine months later nearly to the day

There we were flying down the interstate

Car weaving in, car weaving out

Through traffic running every red light in town

Delivery room and the doctor comes in

I’m right beside her she’s squeezing my hand

One more push and a baby cries

Sweet little angel with his mama’s eyes

And I said to myself

"It doesn’t get better than this

"No, it doesn’t get better than this"

But it did, it did, oh it did

Yes, it did
"It Did" by Brad Paisley


Anye said...

Congratulations! Your story is truly inspirational.

Brandy said...

I love your love story. I love the two of you. I am so incredibly blessed to have your friendship.

Anonymous said...

Actually the church you got married in is in Hurst, Tx not North Richland Hills. 8-) My Mom and Dad still go there. Congraduations you guys!

Jimbo said...

Look at that amazing texas hair on that woman. Is that still legal in the other 49 states?

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Thanks, Anonymous... and you're right, Shady Oaks BC is in Hurst. My bad.

Jimbo: I loved her big TX/80's hair. Still do, even when it's substantially shorter.