Tomorrow is Jessica and my wedding anniversary.
In 2004, we married at a church in Milwaukee. Surrounded by 200 people, family and friends, we committed our souls to love, hope, and forgive each other until death takes one of us home.
I met Jessica while I was working at CCM. The first time we chatted, I was signed on to AOL Instant Message as “CCMEditor” and Jessica was using the handle “Babbles01.” The first words she typed at me were these: “Are you REALLY the editor of CCM magazine?”
I typed back: “I am.”
We chatted back and forth for a few minutes. Well, actually, Babbles01 did most of the chatting. I did a lot of reading. I learned a lot about Babs during that first conversation. First of all, she was a fast typer. She was also a 20-year-old journalism student at UW Madison who, that summer, planned to intern in the PR department at one of Nashville’s Christian music labels. Eventually, she was asking me questions about my job? And then–I’m not kidding about this–began telling me how I could do my job better.
“Would you like for me to write you a strategy plan so you will have something to present to your superiors?” Babbles01 asked.
“You don’t have to do that,” I typed.
“It’s no trouble,” she typed. “I’ll email you something tomorrow.”
In the middle of our conversation, my friend/colleague Lee walked into my office and asked what I was doing. I looked at him. “I think I’m flirting with a twenty-year-old college student.”
I was 29 at the time. And though I felt somewhat strange enjoying a conversation with somebody who was nearly nine years younger than me, that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. There was something quite different and charming about Babbles01. She was lively. Certain. Strong. And at some point during our conversation, I definitely felt a spark.
That next morning I received an email from Babbles01. Attached to the email was a 2000-word strategic plan for CCM. And it was a quite good–well-written and thorough.
That first conversation happened on January 29, 2003. Two weeks later, Jessica and I talked on the phone for the first time. That April, we met in person. The first 24 hours was strange. But then, as we were shopping at the mall, we stopped to take pictures in a photo booth. I ended up spending $12 dollars at that booth. Why? Because it took four takes before we managed to get both of our heads into all four of the frames. By the third failed attempt, Jessica and I were both sitting on the mall’s floor, laughing hysterically. There was a moment during the laughter when I thought, “I think I could spend the rest of my life with this girl.”
Five months later, I asked Jessica to marry me. She thought I was coming up to visit her on a Friday, when actually, I had arranged to fly in on a Thursday. As I approached her front door, I was on the phone with my friend Lee, who was in Nashville pretending to be “CCMEditor” online. When I was standing directly outside Jessica’s door, Lee typed: “It’s 5:55, make a wish.” That was something I learned from Jessica–to make a wish whenever all of the numbers on a digital clock matched.
Babbles01 typed back (and I’m not making this up): “My only wish is you.”
Lee typed a smiley face and then wrote, “Knock, knock.”
And that’s when I knocked on her dorm room door. And 15 minutes later, she said yes.
Jessica and I got married one year later. We honeymooned in Cabos San Lucas at the One & Only resort.
The last seven years have brought life’s myriad of relational ups and downs. Some of our up times have been magical, euphoric in ways we never imagined possible. And some of those down times have taken us deep into places that neither of us could have believed was possible seven years ago. Sometimes loving each other is easy, as natural and effortless as blinking. And sometimes loving each other takes more work than we want to do and more energy than we believe we have. But we do. Somehow we manage to muster up just enough grace and humor and passion to make it through.
One thing I never question is this: My wife loves me more than I can comprehend. Over and over again, that strength and certainty and passion that I encountered during our first conversation on IM is threaded throughout every detail of Jessica’s life. I’m not sure I knew how to love until I met Jessica. She’s shown me (and taught me) a kind of love that is more than just something she feels and says aloud, Jessica’s love is active and full of heart. It’s practical sometimes. It’s spontaneous sometimes, and planned with detail at other times. Jessica’s love is sexy sometimes. And sometimes it comes wearing pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt she’s worn since college.
But it’s always present.
That’s something I’m continuing to learn from Jessica–to be present, to exist fully in every moment possible.
Marriage is hard sometimes. But then there are often times when it’s easy, when it feels natural, good, like home is supposed to feel. I know this: my love for Jessica Nicole Turner is deeper and stronger and far bigger than I felt on October 23, 2004. It’s not perfect. But it’s real and humbling and comes with moments of extreme joy nearly every single day of my life.
The other night, Jessica came home from work with a migraine. A few minutes after she came through the door, she pulled Adeline out of her carseat and collapsed onto the couch to breastfeed. Elias and I were in the kitchen. I was cooking dinner. Elias was asking (pretty much whining) for a Pop Tart. Every time I said “no,” he performed his “me so hungry” routine, which almost always includes hanging on my leg and an eventual collapse to the floor. By 6:30, we were all eating our dinner. Jessica reached for the TV remote. Elias looked at his momma and said, “We going to watch the Letter Show, Mommy?” Jessica nodded.
Yep. Seven years into our marriage and already “Wheel of Fortune” is a house favorite. When Adeline finished eating, Jessica handed her to me and I put her in the bouncy at my feet.
I ate my dinner, my foot bouncing Adeline’s body with perfect rhythm.
Jessica ate her dinner. She had to stop eating and mute the television at least three times to negotiate with Elias how much he had to eat in order to qualify for a bedtime treat.
Jessica and I solved a couple of the word puzzles prior to the contestants.
I gave Elias a time-out.
As he waled from his timeout chair, Jessica and I looked each other and smiled. She winked at me.
And then she said, “I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else, you know…”
When I finished chewing, I said, “me either.”
Our life isn’t often sexy. It’s not always easy. And sometimes, it can be sort of messy.
But as long as Jessica is doing life with me, it always feels blessed.
And I am grateful to God for all that Jessica is in my life.