by Nancy Admiraal
Jeff and I got married on one of the hottest days in Chicago history. We were in the midst of a five-day heat wave that killed 750 people in the city limits. The service was beautiful and my Dad’s message made everyone cry, but during the photos, my maid of honor kept running the bouquets to the refrigerator to keep them from wilting and the kitchen crew ran out of punch at the reception even before Jeff and I arrived. We finally escaped that night in a violent thunderstorm.
After the honeymoon, Jeff and I moved to a 710 square foot apartment on the edge of Washington, D.C., which was barely the right size for two people, but got really tight when we hosted overnight guests 43 nights that year. After about two days of marriage, Jeff told me I made the apartment look like a hotel, which was a compliment, and I’ll never forget it. Calculating the cost of every meal seemed romantic and noble, and we saved coupons for Pizza Uno so we could go out once every two months. How we looked forward to those dates! Those are the happy memories.
The bad memories go like this: I didn’t like the way he played games, especially Scrabble, because he didn’t let me look for words in the dictionary on my turn. I didn’t like the way I had to go to work early and he came home from the library late. I didn’t, and still don’t, like the way he eats bananas. I didn’t like the way he nagged me on Sunday morning to get ready faster so we could get to church on time.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was the fact that he wouldn’t let us get a TV. He insisted that since he never had a TV growing up, that the radio was perfectly enchanting entertainment, especially TALK radio. I was so lonely in the evenings because Jeff was at the library that I listened to the Bruce Williams radio show every night for nine months until one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got home from work and I drove our car to Best Buy and I bought myself a little TV. I never asked permission and I don’t recommend this approach because I probably broke every single Biblical marriage commandment, but it worked in the sense that he let me keep the TV.
There have been so many other disagreements, many of them much more serious, but we laugh about most of them now, and I think the way that Jeff learned to love me in spite of myself and the way I learned to love him in spite of the way he eats bananas, is a perfect picture of God’s love and forgiveness for us. I say, “learned to love” on purpose, because even though I loved Jeff when I made my wedding vows, I didn’t love him like I do now. If I think about it, it’s really no different than the way I’ve learned to love and serve the Lord. When I was a few weeks old, I was baptized, and when I was 12, I made my profession of faith, but I didn’t love God then the way that I do now. It took years of practice on my part and loads of forgiveness on God’s part.
How do we practice love? Ideally, we are always looking for ways to do good to our husbands. Does he love a cup of tea before bed? Offer to prepare it before he gets to the kitchen to do it himself. Honestly, my husband is much better at serving me than I am at serving him. He’s a “doer” and I’m more of a “talker,” so I try to encourage him in other ways. Of course it’s always impressive to him when I do things that are a priority for him, like remembering to enter the numbers in our budget spreadsheet.
Loving marriages are filled with laughter too. We were blessed to grow up in homes where we spent time at the dinner table at night sharing funny stories about our day and we still try to do that with the kids. When we are tired and overwhelmed and nothing in our life seems particularly humorous, though, we cue up a favorite comedy on the DVR or read out loud to each other from a funny book. One time when I was in the hospital for a couple of days, Jeff opened a favorite Dave Barry book and we read out loud to each other until we laughed so hard that we cried. My point is that you need to manufacture laughter sometimes!
Focusing on each other’s needs, having fun, and spending time together are not ends in themselves. When our marriages are healthy, we emanate Christ’s joy and peace to other people. A friend of mine once told me that one of the goals of good parenting is to parent in such a way that your children are always a blessing to other people and not a curse. She meant that when she sent her children to school and friends’ houses, she didn’t want to think any teacher or parent dreaded interaction with her child. Perhaps the same idea can be applied to married people. I’m sure you can think of couples that you love to spend time with because they are always encouraging, forgiving, and helpful even when life is going so badly for them you can’t imagine a day in their shoes. These are marriages that are used by God to restore this fallen world and bring it closer to eternity.
Honestly, I’m glad that Jeff and I are done with our first year of marriage. I had a hard time learning to serve and compromise and he’s said more than once that I’m not exactly the girl he had in mind when we sat next to each other in English class, but God gives grace. I’m increasingly sure with every passing year that he’s brought us together to bring life to our children and, Lord willing, to serve the community where we live.
- About Nancy -
Nancy Admiraal is one of my most beloved friends. She always stimulates my mind and encourages my heart. I hear her responses during Sunday School, her conversations in the church hallways, her ideas and insights over my lunch table. I think of her most during the days leading up to one of our Literary Club discussions [more on Literary Clubs in February 2017]. I want to know what she thinks because she always has an angle.
Sometimes she has a genuine dislike of a book or author or storyline, other times she is an enthusiastic as I am. All the time her insight teaches me another thing or two, which is saying something since I’m a former literature teacher in a classical school.
In fact, during my teaching years Nancy was in my life primarily because of literary discussions, our lives didn’t intersect much in those days. But she still enriched my perspective on lots of things having to do with conflict, theme, resolution, setting, writing style, and characterization.
Nancy is happily married (as you will see in the essay below) to Jeff and has been for twenty-one (21) years. Together they have four darlings: a Wheaton freshman who was born in Japan because she and Jeff lived and worked there for a time, a high school Junior who is her spitting image (I was noticing the identical profiles in church just two days ago), and two little dark-eyed dark-haired beauties brought home from China.
In the daytime she is a behavioral health specialist for children in foster care, but all the time a beautiful Christian woman whom I thank God is concerned about kids in need and distress.
I asked Nancy what she wanted her readers to know about her and she responded with this, “I was once in good enough shape to run a marathon”!
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