Four years ago, I married my best friend.
It was an unusually warm day for Nashville in January — about 70 degrees (F) and sunny, if I remember correctly.
The church was full of friends and family, many of whom were moved to tears before the ceremony began. Myself included.
There wasn't much that was ornate, but it was beautiful, nonetheless.
They say you can't prepare for the best things in life. I think this is true.
Despite our best efforts to plan, so much about our marriage has been unexpected. And I'm glad.
Wedding day surprises
I didn't expect Ashley to change the song from “Canon in D” to “Hold On,” a song I had written for our first date.
As the doors to the sanctuary opened, my heart leaped into my chest. I nervously watched my best man walk up to the altar and just about yelled at him to stop.
This wasn't what was supposed to happen, I thought. But then, he started playing the familiar tune. And I turned to watch my bride walk down the aisle. I completely lost it.
I knew in an instant this would be the best day of my life.
This only continued at our reception when she surprised me with a song-and-dance routine of Stevie Wonder's “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (with the help of her bridesmaids and friends).
Since then, the surprises have kept coming.
After the honeymoon
I'm a pragmatic guy. I thought marriage was a formality — nothing more. I was wrong.
What I found was a covenant, a holy union. And I had no idea what I was getting myself into. That probably explains why I wept like a baby on the day we said, “I do.”
I didn't expect my whole life to change. I didn't realize that everything from how I brushed my teeth to my career plans would be affected. Nor did I anticipate all the challenges of communicating with someone who isn't exactly like you.
As the honeymoon faded and real life resumed, I realized there would be misunderstandings and frustrations. And at times, we might even wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.
It has not always been easy, but good things rarely are. What I can say is that it has been worth it.
Four years later
Now, there is a quietness about our love — we know we can count on each other. There's still romance, but it's different now. Less drama and butterflies. More steadiness and inside jokes.
Our marriage is the best it's ever been. (Unless my wife says otherwise.)
Still, there are surprises — some delightful and others weird. Like our differing preferences for how toilet paper rolls should be hung (on top or on bottom?). In all of it, we're learning to never stop studying each other.
We try to be honest — with ourselves and with one another. So that when the surprises come, they don't paralyze us.
If I need to talk about something, I'm okay with waiting to process before having a conversation. I can be a bit impulsive. It's not about the “now” as much as the “eventually.”
If Ashley is tired of having me around and needs some time alone, she's not afraid to tell me to take a work trip. And I do.
This is a benefit of doing life with someone. They're not going anywhere. (And when they do, they come back.) It's one of the many beautiful things about commitment.
Life with my biggest fan
On January 12, 2008, my girlfriend who became my wife promised to be my biggest fan. And she has never disappointed.
When I got my first article published in a magazine, she cut out a copy of it and started a scrapbook. She knew there would be others.
Whenever I get a post published in a popular blog she knows nothing about, she still tells all her friends on Facebook to go read it.
When I signed my book contract, she made a big deal about it. We went out to lunch, brought the camera, and she took photos of me as I signed the papers. When we received the final contract back (with a check), she cooked dinner for me and gave me a vintage typewriter.
It is one of my biggest aspirations to honor her with all I do.
Happy anniversary, Ashley. Here's to a lifetime of surprises.
And here's my challenge to you, the reader:
Some of the best things in life cannot be planned. They can only be enjoyed.
So go. Live. Be surprised.
What's something in life you couldn't have planned for? Share in the comments.