This summer, God willing, my wife and I will celebrate 22 years of marriage. We’ve been together nearly 24 years, counting those blissful years of dating/engagement. Wait…that can’t be right, can it? Let me check the math…1996 to 2020…Yep, it’s right. Yowza. Time doth fly.
If you know her, you know this isn’t hyperbole: my wife is an amazing person. Amanda has a deep love for others, and not just those closest to her. She has more talent in her pinky than I have in my entire body. She has taken our 70’s rental, replete with yellow formica and shell-shaped sinks and turned it into a beautiful home for our family, a feat that is worthy of it’s own HGTV show (ahem…y’all paying attention?). She has an eye for beauty and a creative streak a mile wide.
She’s one of those people who brings light to every room she enters. I still remember the first time I set eyes on her…walking out the door to her dormitory in Raleigh, all those years ago. She certainly lit up my life.
And still does.
But I digress…
Right about 14 years ago Amanda stepped out of the paid work force in order to do dive into the world of volunteerism: she decided to stay home and raise our first child. A few years later, after we welcomed our second daughter and our oldest approached school age, Amanda decided she wanted to homeschool our kids.
In case you raced past that, let me turn up the resolution on the microscope for a second: my wife gave her 30’s and now 40’s to raising, loving, caring for our kids. Every. Single. Day. There simply isn’t enough depth I can give these words to carry the meaning of this. She has given herself fully to our family. Willingly.
There has been tremendous joy for her in this, to be sure. She was able to spend precious time with each of our babies, seeing every step (literally) along the way of their development. She has done more than any human on earth to shape, mold, teach, and grow these remarkable little people into who they are today. They have laughed, played, created together. And it has been a blessing I know she’ll never forget.
But it has also involved tremendous sacrifice. I can remember her looking her last boss in the eyes and telling him “My desire is to be a stay at home mom.” She had a chance at really furthering her career at the time, stepping into new responsibilities, but she chose a different road. She stayed home, setting aside her own dreams and desires in order to care for these kiddos.
For many years, she pretty much flew solo with this. I wasn’t there much at all. From my days as a school teacher (still the absolutely hardest job I’ve ever had…God bless you educators, every one!) to my years on staff at a church, she spent not only the days with the kids, but most nights as well.
Once, after we’d moved her to Oklahoma, she told me there were many times she felt like a single mom during those years. Gosh, that broke my heart…mostly because I knew it was true. Sometimes my absence was just due to work, but often it was my own fault, as I propped the ladder of my career up on my wife so I could climb up and over (a friend recently shared this analogy, and boy, it wrecked me).
She has given what some call the “best years” of her life to raise our kids. That sacrifice of her time, energy, love…her own desires and needs is one of the clearest examples of the Gospel I’ve witnessed in my life. Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Well, my wife has done just that for these 3 kiddos, and for me. And man, I hope my kids see it. I hope her life’s sermon rings loud in their ears, noot in some kind of guilt-trippy way, but rather in the most beautiful, lovely, gospel way possible. I hope they’ll see the love of God poured out on them through their mom’s love and life. I hope they’ll understand the beauty of selflessness in a world that tells them to follow their own desires above all others. I have a feeling the love and sacrifice she has shown them will ring loud way after any “dad sermon” I’ve thrown at them has been long forgotten.
I hope they see Jesus in their mom as clearly as I do.
Four years ago she stepped into the complete unknown, quite literally: uprooting our family and moving across the country, right beside a husband with no job and no clear path except to “take your family and move.” This woman, who worked so hard to turn a cookie-cutter suburban house into our own little sanctuary surrendered her farmhouse sink and said “yes” to what we believed God was calling us to. It hasn’t been easy…sojourning never is. Just keep reading those old posts on this blog in chronological order for a bit, and you’ll see…and you’ll also see her heart in those words. Through it all, she has kept going, kept trusting, kept pointing us back to the promises of God in Jesus, even when I found it hard to keep believing.
As now as one season of unease and upheaval has calmed, we stand on the brink of a new one: the teen years. We’ve got one teenage daughter, another on the cusp, and a wide-open 8 year old boy. Our eldest is strongly considering heading to high school next year (a miracle in and of itself), and I have a feeling her sister will follow in her footsteps soon enough. The regular rhythms of the past few years are-a-changing, and while that’s scary and actually quite terrifying, it’s also beautiful.
Seeing Amanda embrace these changes, hard though they may be, makes me so dang proud. I know there was a time she wouldn’t have believed it of herself. Shoot, there was a time I never told a friend there was no way we’d ever leave NC, her home state, yet here we are. I’ve had a front row seat to watch my wife shine like a diamond formed under pressure. I’ve seen her formed and shaped in the valleys, the hard places, the places she didn’t want to go. It’s in those places her beauty, her wisdom, and even her toughness, have shone the brightest.
They continue to do so. I watch her, and I simply marvel…
She is, to borrow a phrase, more precious than jewels.
(if you’d like to find out more about Amanda’s journey, follow her on Instagram @sojournliving )