I remember graduating from each level of school and seeing the new crop of incoming students come year after year, amazed at how much younger they look. My last year in College, I remember looking at the freshmen coming and thinking to myself, wow, they’re just young kids!
Similarly and more recently, I’ve seen a small yet growing amount of younger couples I’m photographing at weddings, giving their speeches. I hear them give their speeches and talk about such things as, “I have my whole life ahead of me” as they share their dreams for what their marriage and future life will be remind me. I think back to when I was married 1825 days ago and had my “plans” for what kind of life I was going to create with my new wife.
That was 5 years ago and the Zeal that every new couple has is such an important thing to keep. For the temperance & habits that comes with the years of life, do grow and shape us, but also can make destinations and goals we strive for drown out the love and adventure of the journey.
Every wedding speech by the bride and groom I’ve heard this year, I feel as though I’m reminded again of those goals & dreams, and given a second chance. With a little girl, on the way, I’ve been wrestling with, “what do I want out of my life”. There comes a time when we do achieve our goals and during the celebration of those events, we hit a point where we asked ourselves, why did that not fulfill me as much as I thought it would?
I’m learning this balance of the importance of the destination and the journey. More importantly and practically, this year, I just discovered the concept of my thought-life. Its been said that 90% of our thoughts are wondering about the past and worrying about the future. I can honestly say I don’t wonder about the past much. Thankful for that, however, I do wonder about the future while thinking such things as everyone does, for example, what the entire plan for the rest of my life entails.
In the last 5 years of marriage, to my beautifully sweet Rachel, we’ve grown in our love, experiences, and joys, tears and now as our family begins to grow, I feel more equipped and ready to be a father than ever before. God has been growing my character and developing me being a father through what I’ve learned running a business for the last 13 years. We’ve been fortunate to travel around the world to places I only dreamed of going as a kid, sharing those memories with together. During this time we developed into the best travel companions. We cook a lot together, We’ve struggled with trials, and watched our characters grow as we sharpen each other. We recently saw the movie “UP”. We both cried when 40 years of their lives was animated in 4 minutes time. It hit me then, just as a bride & groom on the day of their wedding, just as you hear the clicking on the roller coaster as you go up, and up, and up. The ride is starting and it’s going to go by fast. Don’t blink, make your time purposeful. That clip has challenged me and still brings a tear to my eye. Just watching it again while writing this post brought me to tears. I don’t want my life to go by that fast. I want to have a purpose and be successful at the right things. I want to be a good man. But I didn’t even have that really planned out 5 years ago. I wasn’t sure what that even looked like or who even did that. Maybe watching this every morning when I get up with my wife will remind me to live today as if its my last. To love my wife as if it’s the last 24 hours I will ever get to love her. Please watch this.
After 5 years, The things I have been challenged to grow in are, being to busy at times, saying yes to too much work, booking more date nights father out in the calendar as I book work & travel months out. I believe the measure of our positive “fruit” we produce in life, is proportional to the priorities we have. Those priorities must come from our purpose of who we want to be. Otherwise we will be often defined by the choices we don’t make, or the poor choices we do make. I think that God has shown me that I REALLY do not want to be defined by that which I procrastinate in or lack discipline in. For example, being on time! We recently planned out how long it takes us to do most things, and travel most places, and we hold each other accountable. If it takes me 15 minutes to shower and get ready, plus 9 minutes to drive there, and we have 20 minutes before we have to be somewhere, I have to choose to be on time rather than do what I want, sans the shower. So I’ll be sure to wake up earlier tomorrow, and go to bed sooner, but then eat sooner so I can go to bed sooner, and get home from work sooner, and, well, everything else right?
The things I feel I am so blessed by: Rachel has held me accountable and helped shape me into the man God wants me to be, as my pastor said, she will be the “chisel” to my rough edges. Rachel makes me want to slow down and let her take a nap on me. She prays for me, she makes our home a haven. She is diligent in her walk with her God & Savior who is making her into the most wonderful woman I have ever known. I’m thankful she loves him more than me, for the closer she is to Jesus, the better lover she is to me, especially in the trials. She would do anything for me. Even make a special trip home to make popcorn for me while I wait for my delayed flight to take off. She gives me the biggest half and shares what’s left of her (smaller)half with me. She even went atv off-roading in Cabo San Lucas with me in our 1st year in our marriage, and she liked it! Ask me to see the video of her in the dunes of baja california. She has been there by my side at almost 200 of the 250 or so weddings I’ve shot. She is humble, and so sweet, I now don’t need to use jam anymore for my toast! All in all, she’s impressive. Those of you who know her character know what I’m talking about. She is pretty unreal.
In our wedding vows, we promised “that we would give each other what we need the most when we deserve it the least” Oh the times we have both needed love when we screwed up and were given it. These potentially hard & tough times were eased and shortened by how we died to ourselves and put the other person first. I feel SO incredibly blessed to have had the mentors to pour into our lives and share these nuggets of knowledge over the last 5.5 years through pre-marital counseling, listening to my father, to my pastors, and those who are so full of wisdom I craved to sit under their fountain of knowledge forever.
This week on a trip to Australia to photograph a wedding, I spent heaps of time with the couple who now have become good friends. During our chats, I was able to share for hours the advice that Rachel and I had gleaned from life, from our bibles, and from our pastors, parents. These are things we’ve seen modeled well, and things we’ve seen that scare us. This world needs more examples of people living out a life of love that challenges the lazy and encourages those who desire an amazing relationship. To those of you who have been that for us, you’re a legend.
-Hold hands when you disagree (or argue) you can’t rip apart someone your connected to as easily.
-ALWAYS anticipate their best intentions (don’t pre-heat your anger oven)
-ALWAYS give the person the benefit of the doubt (even if your wrong, let your desire for thinking the best in them, convict them of what they just did.)
-Guys; remember wives are not like camels and need constant love & quality time, you can’t do a big date night and expect it to suffice for 2-3 weeks.
-Get away for a marriage retreat once a year. Get unplugged for a few days and plan out what each of you want, and who you want to be as a couple. Make goals, plans, and priorities for the next year.
-Put things that have hurt your relationship away, cut them out of your life, as if they are a cancer tumor. (For me, TV had to go & it’s been a whole new world)
-Ask “what’s one concrete things I can do to serve you today” every day.
-Have a little “thank-you” book that you can say thanks for something and hide it somewhere they will see it.
-Make traditions, do the things you did when you were dating, do what the other person loves more than half of the time.
-Visit those who are dying(like your grandparents) to always remember how short life is.
-Spend time with couples you respect on a regular basis, (you become like the company you keep)
-Couples who pray together stay together, (pray for each other when your happy, frustrated, sad or confused)
-Create a purpose for your life early on. Decide who you will be and what you do before trials squeeze you and life flies by.
-Read your bible. Feed your soul with Jesus (and his character traits such as integrity, patience, etc..) as often and as much as you feed your body with french toast, panini’s, burritos and ice cream, and snacks throughout the day.
I’ll save more for later…
I shared these things, over dinners, and during our lifestyle shoots. Then a few days later, during their wedding speeches, they honored me several times by thanking Rachel and I for the influence we’ve had in their marriage. I was humbled, blessed and thankful to have just passed on what we’ve been given. In hindsight, I was just living out the character traits as I decided I wanted to be; available, wise, serving, generous, etc.
Its moments like these that remind me that my marriage is not just for me, but for others as well. My buddy Jeff Lehmkuhl taught me that. So I’ve decided to live my life for Rachel for a bigger purpose, not that the purpose of loving her diminishes, but the meaning deepens, and hopefully my selfishness, comfort, and security which I so often sub-consciously demand and desire will fade away.
As I look back at the photographs and memories I’ve had with my wife. I can’t believe how fast the last amazing 5 years have flown by. We have so many great memories and good times. I’m proud of our marriage. Now everyone tells me that life with kids goes in a flash. Soon the daughter you cut the cord for, is tying the knot. Every father of the bride has told me this. I just want to slow things down now and enjoy them more.
Recently having a scare with possibly having cancer, everything has had a new purpose and priority. After tears, fears and tests, thankfully that turned out to be negative. So now, I stand here today in a reverence for what God wants of my life. But I’m even more thankful for having gone through that trial. For James 1:2 says, “when you have trials and testing in your life of any kind, consider it pure joy, for the trials bring out perseverance, and faith.” This faith I have been developing has given me a deeper relationship with my God who is giving me the vision for what he knows will be best for me in my life. Obviously since he knows everything, he knows what will make me the most happy. I just need to get past those overpriced temporary comforts and short-lived securities to enjoy the simple things I’ve been given in life. As Francis Chan says “too much of the good life can distract you from an purposeful eternal life”.
Rachel is simply the best gift and if I only had her, I’d be happy. So here’s to adding nothing in life takes away from her. Owning nothing in our marriage that owns us. Being the man that God wants me to be; in the strength he gives me to do that. Here’s to the next 5 years, and I’ve written out my own plan of who I want to be at 35, who I want to be as a husband and a dad. “God, please give me the strength and wisdom, the integrity and patience to be that man to my wife”.
To Rachel: Thanks for being the woman of my dreams. Thank you for loving me and for everything you’ve sacrificed for me, taught me, and done with me. Just as I told you on our wedding day, I can’t wait to serve you, love you and laugh with you for the rest of our lives. Thanks for an amazing 5 years, and many more, as long as we are alive.