This picture was taken the day before Ben asked me to marry him, on December 11th, 1999. We were married two months later on February 11th, 2000.
Sixteen years of marriage.
I have lived more of my life knowing Ben than I did before meeting him...20 years ago.
You never think, when getting engaged, of questions like, "Could I face childhood cancer with this man?" Never in your wildest nightmares do you think about having a child with cancer, and all that comes with it.
I'm so thankful that the questions I did think about included:
Does this man love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength? (Or, does he want to love Him that much!)
Is this man willing to make hard decisions and endure hard things if it means remaining faithful to Christ?
Ben Hester. It's been a wild 16 years. We have SEVEN children.
There are so many things within the last sixteen years that we didn't get right. Oh, and I'm sure there will be many more still to come. ;-p.
There are things we have faced together that have been scary, difficult, and hard.
But with all my heart, I'm so thankful to have lived these last 16 years with a man who is committed to Christ. Who is not afraid to go against the grain of culture and walk in obedience to the Lord even if it means it is a lonely road at times.
You have placed such confidence in me, by allowing me to teach our children, and you have given me the gift of every support possible in order that I may be with Elijah each step of the way--you have not taken one moment of the journey from me. Even when it pained and broke your papa heart to not be with Elijah, even then you took great care to make sure that I was able to be with him.
You have seen my strengths, and many times served unseen through loads of laundry, dishes filling the right side of the sink, and making sure there's decaf coffee awaiting my early mornings with the Lord.....you have encouraged me to chase after the Lord and have spurred me on in my giftings. I pray that you feel the same.
I know it can't be easy to live with me at times. My ideals are occasionally ridiculous, and my optimism (although waning this past year) can sometimes get us in some really interesting positions as we just wait for "it all to come together." I get these crazy ideas....and then you are the crazy man who jumps in along with me and makes it happen (not that you haven't had plenty of crazy ideas yourself).
Like when I asked you about homeschooling.
Or our first road trip to Colorado.
Both of our road trips to New York.
Or, perhaps one of our more recent favorites:
After the long day of adventure, taking the kids into the city, riding the subway and walking through Central Park.... We were stranded at the Staten Island Ferry station with no way back to the hotel. The shuttle was full. It would take two, maybe three, taxis to get us back. Which was at least $100 if not more.
Your desperate face said, "I am done." Holding a tired, cranky child with several more tagging along.
You asked me, "Are you absolutely opposed to just taking taxis back?"
And me. With my hopeful, optimistic eyes, "Can we just try one more thing?"
You did not want to try one more thing. But you did. You trusted me. And that was the bus ride that will forever live on in our children's minds as ah-mazing!!!!!
And in your humble way, as we walked from the bus stop to the hotel, in front of our kids, you gave thanks to God for giving us an adventure on the bus. Because the truth is, is was His adventure that He gave to us.
This story, this is our life.
Long days, some of them leaving us exhausted and weary. But by God's grace, He leads us in one more thing to show us that He is there, the adventure isn't quite over, and the best is yet to come.
So, my partner in this crazy life:
Here's to more decades with little sleep.
Here's to late night deep discussions with the bigger ones, and early morning cuddles with the smaller ones.
Here's to days so full of life that we fall into bed, aware that we are just humans who need rest-serving a God who does not sleep or slumber.
Here's to days full of "one more" adventure after another.
Here's to breakfast feasts, reading many more amazing books, and falling more in love with Jesus.
Here's to all of our kids becoming smarter than us.
Here's to trusting each other more and encouraging each other in our unique gifts in the Lord.
Here is to the happy, amazing moments we have ahead.
And here is to the hard and dark moments that we will face together by His courage and His strength.
Here's to those moments, after just one more adventure, where we find ourselves in awe that God has done it. It has all been His grace. He has carried us each step of the way, and He will continue to do so until this adventure ends, and we begin the eternal one.
I love you.