I wasn’t ever the kind of girl that guys were typically interested in. I knew I wasn’t the prettiest in our high school class, and I certainly wasn’t the most fashionable.
And yet, marriage was something I wanted more than anything, and I was fascinated by the fact that (hopefully) there was a guy out there somewhere that I would spend the rest of my life with.
So, prompted by my parents, I began praying for my husband nearly every day, starting when I was 11 or 12. I prayed that no matter what he was going through, he would stay close to God and develop a strong relationship with Him. I prayed that he would remain pure. And somewhere along the way, when I realized that I was being consistently overlooked by the guys in our class, I decided that, to save myself from heartbreak, I might as well pray that my first date would turn out to be my eventual husband. Weird, but true.
I don’t remember the first time I met Ryan. He was the new kid in 10th grade, and according to his memory, I was one of three giggling blondes he met in the school office the week before school started. He had trouble telling us apart for quite awhile.
Five months later, in January, he ever so shyly asked me to be his date to Homecoming. Admittedly, I didn’t know him well, and I felt a little sorry for him. But he was very sweet, and I said yes.
Our date was disastrous and painfully awkward; we had very little to talk about. And afterwards, I remember joking to God, “Well, so much for my first date being my husband! Never mind about that!”
But God has a sense of humor, and over the next two years, Ryan and I found that we actually had a lot to talk about. In fact, we couldn’t stop talking. He had other girlfriends, and I had crushes on other guys, but we always had time for each other. We were quickly becoming the best of friends.
During our senior year, we headed up the school newspaper together, and we connivingly talked our principal into designating a room for a “senior lounge.” We worked well together, and we had no idea that what was budding between us was something extraordinarily special…of the marriage sort.
We went to the same college, and though I was head over heels for him, he didn’t know it. So when another guy started exhibiting stalker-like tendencies toward me, I asked Ryan if he would pretend to be my boyfriend, secretly wishing for the real thing. A week or so later, he confessed his true feelings for me, and amidst a flurry of butterflies in my stomach, we became a permanent item.
Years later, after we were married, it dawned on me that God had completely answered my girlish prayers.
While I was praying for him in Colorado, he was a 13-year-old in Montreal, suffering the loss of his mom to cancer. He helped hold his family together through a move to Denver, and he endured years of verbal and emotional abuse from a crazy stepmother, the depths of which I am still learning about. But through it all, he continued to grow in his faith and commitment to God.
I prayed for my husband faithfully, not knowing he was the kid sitting next to me in Geometry class.
I prayed for my husband constantly, not knowing that he was the guy walking with me to get coffee at the corner gas station during our free period.
He was the one I was praying for, and God was holding him and caring for him and answering my prayers while I was unknowingly being given a front row seat.
I believe God thoroughly enjoyed orchestrating our story, even down to the moment Ryan took me on my first date, honoring my childish prayers for no reason other than to show me He’s God.
So in honor of his 37th birthday today, I want to celebrate all the things I love about my incredible husband.
1. He leads a rich inner life. Ryan has often said that he can keep his mind busy even in the most boring of situations. His wheels are always turning, and his brain is constantly working.
2. He loves to learn. Humanities lectures were paradise for Ryan, who sat through them chewing the end of his pen and soaking up facts like a sponge. Today, he is always reading news stories on his iPhone. If a group of us are discussing a subject and have a question about something, Ryan quietly pulls out his phone and does some quick research until he has an answer. He enjoys museums and libraries like nobody’s business!
3. He thinks outside the box. Ryan’s dad routinely told him stories about Pooh the Winnie, Mansuper, Manbat, and the Easter Pig, attempting to help him think about situations from different angles. It worked. Ryan is a master at riddles and is naturally “contrary” in any situation, just because. I often joke that Ryan cannot and will not be caged. He doesn’t like the limitations that personality tests imply; he likes to remain undefined and extraordinary.
4. He is intensely competitive. Whether it’s a board game or fantasy football, Ryan wants to win. Like, really bad. He wants to beat all opponents with his superiority. :-)
5. He is wise. I think because he can be so quiet in public situations, Ryan’s wisdom is oftentimes overlooked. He has a wealth of biblical, godly knowledge and the ability to apply it to any situation. He gives wonderful advice and serves as my moral compass. Things are very black and white with him.
6. He seeks truth. No matter what the cost, Ryan is on a quest for truth. Even if it means looking at the Bible from a different angle, he believes that truth will prevail and that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. He’s not fearful that the answers might be different than what we want or expect. He believes that the Bible and science don’t have to be at odds with one another. He often reads intellectual science articles and then wants to discuss them with me. Ha!
7. He is a wordsmith. Ryan loves words, which is honestly one of the most attractive things about him. He is witty, a bit of a vocabulary nerd, and an incredibly gifted writer. One of his biggest pet peeves is adverbs being used incorrect. ;-)
8. He loves to laugh. One of our favorite things to do together is watch comedy specials. He enjoys good comedic writing and delivery. Throughout the day, I regularly receive texts from him with funny posts he’s read on Twitter, and it makes me happy because I know if he’s laughing at Twitter, all is well in his world.
9. He is compassionate. Ryan is very upfront about the fact that he will not watch TV shows that feature people in uncomfortable situations. For instance, ice skating makes him extremely nervous; Ryley’s penchant for performance gets him all worked up. He doesn’t like to see people fail. If it’s on TV, he will get up and leave the room. He just isn’t going to put himself through the awkwardness.
10. He has very basic needs. Ryan doesn’t ask for much. He likes meat and potatoes, Coke, milk, and chocolate chip cookies. He’s expanded his tastebuds somewhat since we’ve been married, so he’s not fussy. He just doesn’t need much to function.
11. He is a rock. He is steady and unchanging. His faith in God is unshakeable, and he is undeniably stubborn. He’s my solid rock, a brick wall to lean on, unfailingly honest, and filled with integrity. He’s consistently himself, and what you see is what you get.
12. He is the love of my life and the answer to my prayers. I mean it. He is constantly challenging me to a better person, and we are each other’s biggest fan in every area of our lives. I cannot imagine living my life with anybody else, and I am so proud of the person he is. He is an incredible husband and father, and Ryley and I are immensely blessed.
Happy birthday, baby! I love you with my whole heart.