13 years ago, Mark and I stood in front of family, friends, and some of my students and vowed to love each other through better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I am pretty sure neither of us could truly fathom what we were promising, nor would we ever dream what our lives would become. (And maybe if he had...he would have run the other way :)
I have been thinking about 13 years of marriage. I cannot say every single day has been a joy. This is life. Some days are harder than others. But through it all, I am blessed and grateful to have this man walking beside me...
Come, take a walk with me as I do a quick tour through 13 years of marriage...
1996- We were married in Little Rock, where we both lived. Above you will see a picture from our honeymoon to Gatlinburg. We were so excited to visit the Smokey Mountains during the peak of fall. We went hiking, explored some historical sites, and rushed out to buy the video "Toy Story" (which we had seen on one of our first dates at the theater). We often joke about the wind that came through one night as we snuggled in our honeymoon cabin...the wind that knocked almost every single leaf off of the trees! It was a happy time...
1997- I am not sure how Mark would classify this year. Our first year wasn't all bad, but it wasn't an easy one for sure! It was a year of growth (and a lot of tears...mainly on my part :). We were so excited about the wonderful tax refund we were sure to get because of our marriage...except that Mark's boss at the time hadn't been paying any taxes for him. So we had quite a shock on our hands when we found out how much we OWED instead. Financially, this was a rough year. We both brought debt into the marriage on top of the taxes owed...our fun consisted of anything free, like exploring Hot Springs on foot. Just to add a little excitement to our lives, Mark switched jobs that year and began working in Northwest Arkansas. I was still under contract in Little Rock, so during the week, Mark lived with my parents (and loved every minute of it :), while I stayed in LR. We saw each other on the weekends. Life was a bit tense at times. Finally that summer, we made the move to NWArk. together, living in a duplex on the other side of my sister and her husband (married just a few months before us). I also got a job with the school where I am still teaching.
1998- We made a trip to Disney (with my family)...always a favorite place to go. That spring, our first house got a foundation, and we found out we were expecting at the end of the year. Sometime that year, Mark took another job, then lost it soon after we moved into our first house. It was scary coming home from a baby shower and finding out that we were minus an income. Thankfully (and as usual), God provided. Mark found another job shortly afterward. And in December, we welcomed our first son to our family.
1999- A year of adjustments. We were first time parents struggling to figure out how to be the parents we needed to be...still working on that actually. I imagine a few more tears were shed that year as we battled the fatigue of caring for a newborn.
2000- Though our life as a family of three was delightful, we found out in the fall that we were going to be adding another little Cloud to the family. For some reason, being pregnant while being a Mommy to a toddler was a little more difficult than the first time around.
2001- Little Miss entered the world in June. Whew! I just thought running errands with one kiddo was difficult...until I had two. Suddenly going out into public seemed very daunting!
2002- The theme for us this year was job changes...Mark started a new job (same industry, different company), and for part of the year, I taught part time so I could have the best of both worlds...I got to stay at home a few days a week, but I also got to be in the classroom.
2003- I continued to work part time throughout the year. Our oldest started pre-school which was a new season for all of us.
2004- I returned to the classroom full time. And in the fall, our oldest started kindergarten, while Little Sister started preschool. We moved into our current house (my "dream house") that fall. Life felt very full and blessed.
2005- Well, we just thought life felt full. We had a family trip to Disney World in the spring. Little did we know that that summer, a yearning would develop in my heart to bring home a little girl from another country to join our family. Shortly afterward we accepted the referral of our daughter from Guatemala (with a visit to follow at the end of the year). Let the paperwork chase (and the endless prayers) begin!
2006- We made a family trip to Guatemala to celebrate Child 3's second birthday with her. After much prayer, tears, and fasting, we were able to bring home our little princess from Guatemala that summer. Again, our marriage faced new adjustments as we adjusted to life with a not so happy toddler with a lot of her own adjustments. Mark, ever the "steady" one was a rock during the transition (for both of us :).
2007- Again, we thought our family was complete. Until that spring. Then suddenly I felt that yearning start all over again. (Yes, less than one year after finishing the first adoption) Suddenly the paperwork chase was on yet again. We made our fourth and fifth trips to Guatemala, the last trip right before Christmas to bring our little gift home...our youngest.
2008- Suddenly, we were a family of six. This year we enjoyed a trip to Gulf Shores. We also learned the fine art of "tag teaming". It is the only way we are able to parent at this point in time. :)
2009- Mark changed jobs, I stayed in mine. Child 3 started school, and Child 1 is finishing his last year in elementary school. Where did the time go? We are still exploring the world together, though sometimes in a new way (with extra people :). (See picture below of our anniversary hike)
13 years of changes, of laughter, of tears, of sickness, of health, of financial ups and downs...God has been faithful. And so has Mark.
I love you, Mark Cloud. Thank you for the life and family you have given me.