April 5, 2003. The day that I gave up my “independent single woman” status and vowed to love, honor and cherish Craig Lee for a lifetime.
There with our dearest friends and family gathered around, we certainly had a starry-eyed view of what marriage would be. And we definitely thought we had it all figured out.
Oh, how we were mistaken.
Sure, these past 16 years have been an incredible journey filled with some amazing highs. But we certainly have had more than our fair share of challenging times, too. Times when was had to make the conscious decision to love each other and push through – even if we didn’t like each other very much at the time.
My business, in addition to agricultural writing and photography, also includes a portrait photography business. And with that comes the chance to photograph several weddings a year. I love the optimism of those wedding days – when everything seems right in the world, and love is all that matters.
Truly, marriage and the bond that is formed is one of the greatest celebrations in life. And after that day of joy, the real work begins. Of choosing to love, day after day – especially during the tough times. And cherishing life’s greatest moments with that human, too.
It’s not what I thought it would be. But truly, it’s so much more, and ultimately so much better.
Love is not found in the big displays and extravagant acts.
When we were first married, I expected flowers on Valentine’s Day; special, well-planned excursions for birthdays; and dressed-up-and-hitting-the-town New Year’s Eve plans. I thought was the truest sign of love – to go above and beyond to show your devotion.
But after 16 years, I have seen love more in the everyday sacrifices than in the grand displays. In the times when Craig offers to bring home dinner so that I don’t have to cook, after a long day of meeting deadlines and caring for kids. Or in giving up a much-anticipated business trip to Germany to be with me and our kids for my grandma’s funeral.
Our birthdays today are often Dairy Queen around the kitchen table with the kids. New Year’s Eve? Well, we’re doing well to stay awake to midnight. But I now see the truest signs of love are in those little moments of sacrifice. When it’s not convenient and when it’s downright tough. That’s real love.
Marriage is tough. But it’s so worth it.
I remember, vividly, the wedding showers leading up to our wedding day. I got such a thrill out of opening all of those shiny, new pots and pans. I was giddy over the thought of setting up a new home with the man I loved, and making wonderful meals he adored each night. I even said as I opened one such gift, “I can’t wait to play house!”
Well, I’ve played house now for 16 years. And I promise, the giddiness over preparing a meal each night has definitely subsided. And those pots and pans are a bit dinged for the wear.
Some days, I feel like those worn-out pots and pans.
Especially on those days filled with tough decisions regarding the care of aging family members, and dealing with the grief of their loss. Or making parenting choices on how to best raise three children to be productive adults.
Marriage is about working together as a team to help these children pursue their interests – whether those interest include showing cattle, competing on the basketball team or hauling our gal to gymnastics classes. And it’s praying together and making the gut-wrenching decisions to keep our loved ones safe and well cared for.
And as much as Craig and I respect each other, we don’t always see things eye to eye. In those times, we must intentionally choose to overcome differences and work together to make the best choices for our family.
You will always change.
The person you vow to love, honor and cherish on that wedding day will not be the same person in five years. Or in another five years. Life brings many opportunities for change – in careers, in adding children, in losses of loved ones, in droughts and floods and times of abundance.
Craig would definitely say I am not the same person he married – and that’s not all bad. I would say the same of him – and that’s not all bad, either. We’ve been through a whole host of life experiences that have brought new realities to our lives. And those experiences have changed us.
Marriage is about renewing that commitment and finding new ways to respect each other and grow together, no matter what life throws your way.
You are different. So different. But together, you’re a great team.
Craig is the details guy. He likes to think through a situation, evaluate all sides and look for better possible options. And that sometimes drives me bonkers.
Me? I’m more of a “don’t just stand there – do something” gal. Just do it! Get it done. Let’s move on to the next decision or project to tackle. And for him? He doesn’t understand the hurry.
That sure makes packing a cattle trailer or setting up stalls, ahem, interesting.
But we’ve learned to appreciate each other for our unique perspectives. That doesn’t mean we will always be happy while we do it. And sometimes it’s best for me to just walk away for a bit while he thinks it through.
But I’ve learned that Craig has prevented some pretty major disasters by his evaluations. And maybe he’s learned to be a little more open to taking a chance once in a while, too.
We have so much to learn.
Yes, to us, 16 years seems like an eternity. But it also feels like a blink of an eye. And with both of us having grandparents who reached the 50-year and 65-year milestones of marriage, 16 years is a drop in the bucket.
I can only imagine the joys and challenges yet to come. And how we will look back on 16 years as two young kids who had so much to learn.
I can’t wait to get to that point – where we can look back on 50 years together and say, “We did it.”
We surely have so much more to learn. And no doubt, more trials to come with the celebrations. But there’s no one I’d rather annoy for the rest of my life than you, Craig. Happy Anniversary.
This article originally ran in the April 2018 issue of Hereford World. Updated April 2019.