An Open Letter to My Husband As We Finish Our First Term

*Photo courtesy of Noor Barron Photography

*Photo courtesy of Noor Barron Photography

Today is our anniversary; it's been eleven years since we took that epic plunge at the altar. We have packed up our lives together eight times. Eight times! Across mountains, across interstates, across oceans. And we are doing it all again.  We have stood, and we are standing now, {those are significant words now, aren't they?} surrounded by our memories, looking on as our marriage is tucked away into so many boxes, attaching labels to our hopes, our dreams, our failures, and our regrets. 

Today, there is no romantic dinner by candlelight. There is a frenetic pace of packing, selling, sorting, and falling into bed exhausted at all that remains. And I love you even more for it. This is the stuff of life; this is our life.

A few weeks ago, we watched our friends get married in their village. You gave the wedding sermon and joked that your wife has been married to five different men, and they've all been you! Most of them have been here in Asia! And it's true for you; I have many versions, too.

But this is what I want to say to you: I have loved every version of you. Every process of you becoming. Every step forward (and even the backwards ones) that we have taken together.

Many things about our overseas life, a life laid down, have not been easy. This past year is no exception. In many ways, it's been the best and the worst for us. Our compost pile has grown higher than ever, yet the grace we understand now is deeper and richer. Our dreams, secret visions we've cradled in the hard, cold depths of long nights, are coming to pass, beginning to bear fruit.

Oh, the growth we've had. And we say, tongue-in-cheek, that growing causes growing pains. We've been stretched and pulled and bent in a thousand different directions. At the end of each shifting, you have been there. You are always there, wherever the "there" is that I need.

My eyes have seen so many things in this far-away land that captured us both body and soul. My eyes have seen you, really, really seen you, in this overcrowded city home of ours. I've watched you stay awake all night and pray through the morning for Light to come and shatter this darkness around us. I've observed you standing vigil over our family, over our home, keeping watch over me and our kids. No devil in Hell was going to get through; you made sure of that!

I've seen you fall. I've seen you bleed. I've seen you rise again. You've wiped my tears and apologized for the ones you never saw. You've looked at me and said the only three things you could say: "I see you. I hear you. It's going to be okay." And you did. And you do. And it is.

I've watched you struggle. Language learning. NGO parameters. Culture stress that ebbs and flows. The frustrations and the fruits, the blessings and the curses, all flow hand in hand, melding together in this cauldron we now know as our life hereI've had the privilege of holding the front row seat to witnessing your gifts and passions burst forth, like a tentative butterfly chipping away at a restrictive chrysalis.

And you have watched me in my private struggles. My own bouts of language learning. Navigating the global worker's expectations, some placed on me without warning; others as an entrapment of my own making. Through myriad winning, losing, and trying efforts, we have struggled and succeeded...together. 

And, so today, I say to you again, I like this version best. Of you. Of me. Of us. We are marked with the battle scars; we are more in love than ever; we are stronger for the challenges; we are real, like the Velveteen Rabbit who is made more beautiful by the flaws created out of an authentic relationship of trust and safety and coming home.

Many things are behind us. Another year of marriage and now this term in Southern Asia. Many things lie ahead. A year of unknowns in the States, sure to be filled with joy and sorrow in equal measure. Many more terms overseas. The comings and goings. The long hello's and the short goodbye's. You and I dancing in the kitchen in the middle of the night.

Happy Eleventh Anniversary to us today! Happy completion of our first term overseas! I have never been prouder of you. I have never had so many reasons to love you, to love us, to love who I am with you at my side. There are higher mountains and deeper valleys. Sometimes I run ahead; you tenderly call for me to slow down. Sometimes you get there first; you patiently tell me to keep on walking and reach back for my hand. We will win again. We will lose again. Always, always, we will try again...together. Whether on this continent or that one, we are at home. I am at home with you.

What else can I say to the man who has loved me all these years long, who has loved me best because he always loves Jesus most? This is the year, this is the season, I have been able to more fully open again the gift I received on June 7th. We committed to going out in to all the world on that day. And we will keep on going! 

I told you then, and I tell you now, that your hands were fashioned for greatness. Your hands are soft enough to hold tightly to mine (even though in this culture you aren't supposed to!). Your hands are strong enough to lead our family, to model what it is to truly be a man. I take your hand once again now, and I offer thanks and praise to the One Who is leading us both, ever faithful, ever strong, ever toward His glory and our good.