Dearly Beloved

It’s wedding season.

Which means the “Wedding March” and “Love Shack” are topping playlists everywhere. I happen to be a fan of the B-52s – and Mendelssohn too – so I’m ok with that. (I draw the line at “Turn Down for What.” Just… no.)

I love weddings. The solemn vows, the sentimental toasts, the sacred union. The blushing bride, dashing groom, teary-eyed parents. The dress, the flowers, the CAKE. That last, lovely daddy-daughter dance, the crazy kid doing the Worm, the bevy of bridesmaids clap-hop-stomping to the Cha Cha Slide. The bouquet toss, the clinking glasses, the joyful rice/bubbles/sparkler sendoff.

But first – barely above a whisper – the seating of the guests, the lighting of the candles, the sprinkling of the petals to herald the bride’s slow, sweet stroll down the aisle. And then the pastor/priest/rabbi/internet-ordained-second-cousin-of-the-groom begins the ceremony… and at that point, I have to suppress a little giggle.

Because I’m envisioning the bishop from “The Princess Bride,” that’s why.

Mawwwage… Mawwwage is what bwings us togevver today. Mawwwage, that bwessed awwwangement. That dweam wifffin a dweam…

(Well played, Peter Cook.)

There are lots of terrific films about engagements and weddings and brides and grooms but “The Princess Bride” is my favorite… (six-fingered) hands down. It’s action, adventure, romance, comedy, fantasy and fairy tale all delightfully mined and cut into one brilliant little cinematic gem.

Brandishing a stellar cast, quotable script, and enduring lessons on life and love, the film adaptation of William Goldman’s book was a sleeper hit. It opened just a few weeks before Steve and I were married in 1987 and had a mildly successful run in theaters before gaining widespread fame and “family classic” status following its video release. Perhaps that’s the reason I remain so enamored: the story harkens back to the beginning of my own “happily ever after.”

(You may heretofore refer to Steve as “sweet Westley” and me as Buttercup. If you wish.)

“The Princess Bride” launched Robin Wright’s award-winning career and brought Columbo’s to a satisfying and splendid close. It introduced us to the dangers of shrieking eels, fireswamps, and iocane powder, and the wonders of MLT sandwiches, swashbuckling swordplay, and chocolate-covered miracle pills. And it bestowed a rich stash of witty and iconic film quotes (which serve as regular retorts in our household).

I’m not a witch; I’m your wife!

Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates…? Morons!

When I was your age, (YouTube/Netflix/Xbox) was called books.

We are men of action. Lies do not become us.

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

But I digress.

The reason I find weddings so captivating is this: they remind me what matters most. Family, beauty, devotion, worship. They make no apologies about what we ought to do: keep our promises, cherish our people, love big and bold and brave… ever after.

Sadly, things don’t always turn out as swimmingly as they did for Buttercup and Westley. There’s a whole lot of living that happens between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” and it requires copious amounts of grit and grace. Day after day after day after day after day.

Every so often, I watch the bride and groom wave goodbye to their guests, and I think…

Have fun storming the castle!

Do you think it’ll work?

It would take a miracle.

The odds are stacked pretty high against lifelong love and devotion. Two people are drawn by their differences, then dashed by them. Or by the natural (and/or manmade) disasters that inevitably strike every living thing on planet Earth.

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Some couples grow apart, others grow bitter. And a few – those rare and lovely few – grow old together. They hold tight – for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health – ’til their very last breath. Gladly. Gracefully.

Mother Theresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Yes, that’s the hard holy work, isn’t it? Loving the people under your own roof.

Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. To serve, sacrifice, set me-me-me aside.

For us-us-us.

Love – real love – costs. (The people who say it’s free are… well… morons.) Love costs a bundle.

A willingness to risk your life… and lay it down. Risking your life may be the easier thing. It’s the laying it down, day in and day out, that’s really hard. Choosing to selflessly, relentlessly love an imperfect person. Someone whose flaws have become glaringly apparent. Someone who has failed you time and time again.

It’s an impossible task, really. Unless we are filled and fueled by Love Incarnate.

Here’s the hitch:

We must be fully loved before we can love fully.

This is true love. You think this happens every day?

Yes.

God loves you, truly.

Nothing you accomplish could make Him love you more than He already does. And nothing you do will make Him love you any less.

Inconceivable, isn’t it?

All He wants from you, beloved, is that you… be loved.

So, soak it up. And splash it all around. It’s what you were made for.

All you ever really wanted was to be loved (just the way you are)?

As you wish.

Wendy

P.S. You can quote me.

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Heartstrings

My dear reader,

All of a sudden, Steve and I are celebrating 30 years of wedded bliss. (Not sure how this is possible since we just tied the knot a hop, skip and a handful of kids ago.) The really incredible thing about this milestone is that, after THREE DECADES of diapers and dog hair, oil changes and job changes, taxes, tuition payments and phone bills, spilled milk/Juicy Juice/Gatorade/root beer/wine/tea/coffee, thrilling victories, crushing losses, a handful of tie games and a couple of forfeits… we still really dig each other. Crazy, huh?

Every once in a while some sweet, young googly-eyed girl (who happens to be dating the guy she thinks might be “the one”) will look at me, wonderstruck, and say, “You guys seem really happy together. Like you’re still in love… and you genuinely like each other. So, how does that work? What’s the secret?”

To which I automatically reply:

“Marry Steve Holtz.”

(Because that’s all I’ve got. And because he is – honest and truly – the best man I know.)

He’s the unsung hero of our family, and the real star of this to-be-continued love story. Which is why I’ve decided that today, I’m not going to write to you… I’m going to write to him. And since he finally subscribed to my blog a couple months ago – and therefore will receive an email alerting him that I’ve posted something – he may actually read this letter as he sifts through his overflowing inbox this morning. (A love letter tucked in between purchase orders, project changes and spam. Surprise!)

Hi Babe,

How in the world did we get here? To middle age? And grown kids? And this 30th anniversary of our wedding day? It all happened in a couple of heartbeats, didn’t it?

First, let me just say that I would absolutely, positively, emphatically and exuberantly say “Yes” and “I do” and “No problem, mon” (< and repeat our Jamaican honeymoon) all over again. And I’m pretty sure that you’d ask me again. Which is nice.

I remember when you came to tell my dad you were planning to propose. He had the electric hedge trimmers out, and he was whacking away at the boxwoods in our front yard. After repeatedly motioning for him to cease and desist, he finally powered down his sabre-tooth trimmer and turned his attention to you, letting you sweat a little as you made your request. Thankfully, unlike the rude dude MAGIC! had to deal with in his music video, my daddy-o gave his heartfelt blessing:

“Sure.”

And then he fired up that Black and Decker and put the finishing touches on the hedges.

Deal. Done.

(By the way, I’m really sorry I forgot to tell you about my student loans until after the wedding. I swear, it was an oversight.)

As I glance back at all the years that have flown past, I’m struck by the lack of strife between us. It’s remarkable, really. We’ve had our spats here and there, to be sure, but we’ve rarely gone to bed angry or fumed for longer than about 47 minutes. Max. I give you all the credit for this, because you are – and have always been – a peacemaker. And so kind and quick and willing to forgive me.

Seventy times seven times.

And then some.

I remember that one big blowout we had the first year we were married. The one where I stormed – dramatically, of course – out the door and ran home to my mommy. And she wouldn’t let me in the house. And then I had to come back to our little place at Cress Creek with my tail between my legs (because I really didn’t want to sleep in our ’78 Celica on those furry/ratty/smelly jungle seat covers all night. Just… no.) I sat outside for about two hours before I finally worked up the nerve to knock on the door. And you cracked the door and I saw just the hint of a smile… and warmth and kindness in those dreamy blue eyes. Then you swung the door wide open and welcomed me home. And I knew I didn’t deserve you.

God’s mercy – and yours – have been the saving graces of our union.

Bless you both.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

Your lavish forgiveness is real-life evidence of your faith in Jesus Christ. You forgive my debts (and everyone else’s) as He has forgiven yours. What a rare and beautiful thing.

Every day, I watch you live your faith. And it blows me away. It’s real and sturdy and deep and wide. I saw that in you even before we married. And it captivated me instantly.

You trust God. You just do. And you help me trust Him too. How can I ever begin to thank you for a gift like that?

(Oh, I know. You’ll think of something. And it will make me laugh. Or blush. Or both.)

You’re so good at that. Making me laugh (and blush).

I love when you say something – out of left field – that just busts my gut. When we’re driving someplace or walking the dog or cooking together, and you just drop one of your comedic gems… and I start laugh-crying (like the emoji) and I can’t stop and I have to cross my legs so I don’t wet my pants.

And when things are going south, your silly always kicks in. And often, saves the day.

Your sense of humor, silly songs, goofy antics and (slightly inappropriate) color commentary have kept me laughing since day one. Which is probably why my laugh lines are so deep. They’re like tractor ruts. I may have to order some of that really expensive “regenerative” wrinkle cream if we’re going to keep doing this for another 30 years. (Just wanted to give you a heads up, so you can start saving. ‘Cause I don’t think La Mer offers vat-sized free samples. And I think a GoFundMe page might be pushing it.)

After 30 years, I can unequivocally say that the thing I love best about you is your heart. It’s tender and winsome and strong and sincere.

And big as the sky.

From the very beginning, it has felt like home to me.

When we took our vows before God, Pastor Hall, our parents, friends, and family, we promised to love, honor, and cherish each other always. And you have kept your promise every single day since. I know there have been days when that was a tall order. I can be a stinkbomb, I know. And I’m sure it was all you could do to hold your tongue and deflect my terrible, awful, no-good, very-bad behavior. Bless you, kind sir.

Sometimes I wonder how – out of all the women in the history of the world – I got picked to be yours. You are strong when I am weak. Steady when I’m erratic. Forbearing when I’m difficult. Flexible when I’m uptight. Adventurous when I’m boring. Chill when I’m stressed. Funny when I’m too serious. And tender when I’m hurting.

I don’t know how you’ve done it all so consistently and so well. You must be exhausted. God rest ye, merry, gentle man.

We’ve had our share of tough times too. Miscarriages, job losses, a failed adoption, a life-threatening illness, parenting blunders, financial setbacks, car/computer/FAFSA/furnace trouble, run-ins with bullies and bad drivers, and more family funerals than I care to count. I’m so glad we held on tight through the “bad times, sickness, poorer” parts. They made us closer, kinder, stronger.

I remember on one of our first dates, we went to see “Mannequin.” Pretty awful movie, but it had such a catchy theme song… and we decided it would be “ours.” Every time I hear it on “Big 80s on 8,” I smile big and belt it out:

Lookin’ in your eyes I see a paradise
This world that I’ve found is too good to be true
Standin’ here beside you, want so much to give you
This love in my heart that I’m feelin’ for you

Let ’em say we’re crazy, I don’t care about that
Put your hand in my hand, baby, don’t ever look back
Let the world around us just fall apart
Baby, we can make it if we’re heart-to-heart

And we can build this dream together
Stand this ground forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now
And if this world runs out of lovers
We’ll still have each other
Nothing’s gonna stop us, nothing’s gonna stop us now, whoa no

I’m so glad I found you, I’m not gonna lose you
Whatever it takes, I will stay here with you
Take you to the good times, see you through the bad times
Whatever it takes is what I’m gonna do

Let ’em say we’re crazy, what do they know?
Put your arms around me, baby, don’t ever let go
Let the world around us just fall apart
Baby, we can make it if we’re heart-to-heart

It’s a little cheesy, which I think is perfect for us. Because we are too. You are a Gouda man… and the two of us are grater together. We will forever Brie the perfect pairing. Ours is nacho average boy-meets-girl and gets hitched story.  It’s a charming rom-com, tender love story, and real-life fairy tale all rolled into one big bundle of happy chaos. (With a little gruyere and emmentaler cheese stirred in. ‘Cause I’m really fondue you!)

God writes the best stories, doesn’t He?

Thirty years ago, I took a vow to love, honor and cherish you until death do us part. It was a sacred vow. . . and a brilliant decision. I love you more now than ever before. (In part because I now understand more fully what love is and does.)

Steven Robert Holtz, you are the most extraordinary human being I’ve ever known. It has been my profound privilege to be your bride, friend, partner, lover and sidekick all these years.

Every single day, I am thankful for you and our happily ever after.

You hold my heartstrings… always.

W

P.S. Let’s celebrate BIG! (But first… coffee… and a Costco run.)