This Sunday marks 40 years since my wife Kim and I were married. And by today’s standards, it was a very old-fashioned wedding.
I was 21, she was 20. We dated for 20 months … were engaged for four … and then got married at the church where I had met Kim two years earlier.
The wedding cost $500, and Kim paid for it herself. (Her mother later reimbursed Kim half that amount.) Somewhere around 400 people came to witness our vows on a miserably hot day.
As church custodian, I arrived at my usual time of 8:00 am that Saturday to clean the church … then proceeded to lock my keys in my car … and had to call my laughing mother to get them out.
After I cleaned the church for five hours, I went home … put on my tux … and arrived in time for photos.
Kim’s father … our pastor … conducted the ceremony … making us kneel for more than 30 minutes while he talked about God, Abraham and Bonhoeffer.
After the ceremony, some friends rifled through our wedding cards, took out the cash, and slipped it to me for our honeymoon.
We drove my mother’s car to Yosemite … mine never would have made it … and stayed in a cabin for several nights.
We rented a two-bedroom apartment in Santa Ana for $195 a month. Kim made $1.65 working at a preschool, while I started seminary and worked at church as an ecclesiastical engineer.
People sometimes ask us the secret of our marital longevity. My reply is always the same: “I married the right person.”
In fact, let me share with you five reasons why I know that I married the right person:
First, Kim is an emotionally strong woman.
San Diego means a lot to us. It’s where we went for our first date … and our tenth anniversary.
We had a great time on our tenth … then drove back home to Silicon Valley where Kim entered the hospital for exploratory surgery the next day.
Kim had undergone some tests and been told that she had a mass in her abdomen. After just ten years together, I feared I might lose her.
Thank God, she didn’t have a mass, but she did have a hysterectomy, and after giving birth to Ryan and Sarah, that was all God permitted us to have.
But I remember how courageous Kim was during the entire time … and how her faith in God kept her sane.
During our last ministry, Kim was in and out of hospitals constantly. She always handled herself well, assuring me that she’d be okay.
Sometimes I’m stronger than she is, and sometimes she’s stronger than me … but she has a resolve … a determination … that we can handle anything as long as we hold onto God and each other.
I love that about her.
Second, Kim is far more adventuresome than I am.
From ages 10 through 15, Kim went to boarding school in India and Pakistan while her parents served as medical missionaries in Saudi Arabia. She only saw her parents a few months every year and had to learn to adjust to other cultures in primitive surroundings.
When I met her three years after she came home to the States, she talked all the time about how much she loved the Middle East. In fact, she really wanted to be a missionary.
But then she met me … and I’ve never been in her league as far as adventure.
In 1992, Kim and I began talking about saving enough money to visit Europe for our twentieth anniversary three years later. But the church I served as pastor was struggling financially, and we agreed to give sacrificially for the church to survive.
So I told Kim, “Look, based on our finances, I don’t see how we can go to Europe.” Kim responded, “If you don’t go, I’m going by myself.”
Somehow, we scraped together enough money to visit the Continent, and found ourselves on a mountain peak in Switzerland the morning of our twentieth anniversary.
We’ve flown overseas many times since then, and due to my dislike for flying, I probably never would have gone … except for my wife, who became accustomed to flying all over the world when she was ten years old.
On our only trip to Hawaii many years ago, she insisted on hang gliding over the ocean and then being dropped into the water … while I was holding onto the boat for dear life.
I love that about her.
Third, Kim is a fun-loving party planner.
The weekend I was going to turn forty, Kim told me to clear out my calendar. I had no idea what she was up to.
Thursday night, we went to a movie and to dinner … and then spent the night in a hotel.
Friday morning, we went to the San Jose airport where we met our two kids. Then we flew to Orange County, where we met my sister Jan … and went to Disneyland for the day.
That night, we drove to my brother’s house in San Bernardino, where all my old friends showed up for a surprise party.
On Saturday, after flying home to San Jose, Kim planned another surprise party for me at church.
Over the years, Kim has used her skills in party-planning to gather large crowds for events.
When she worked for a large child care company in San Jose, they held a dance every year … one year, as the event neared, they hadn’t sold near enough tickets.
Kim volunteered to distribute them. The goal wasn’t to make money, but to fill the auditorium downtown with people who would watch those kids dance.
When the curtain opened, the place was packed. Kim had done something nearly impossible … turned a disaster into a roaring success.
She later used those skills to draw large crowds for community events at our church … and she thought BIG … a little too big for some people, who felt that the purpose of those events should be to make money.
But her goal was to turn out a crowd so they could discover where our hidden church was located … invite people to attend … and hope that we could reach them for Christ … and she had a blast doing it.
In fact, she loves to say, “Church should be fun.”
I love that about her.
Fourth, Kim loves to reach people for Christ.
Kim was the full-time outreach director at our last church for nearly nine years. Her work must have reached someone’s ears, because one year, she was asked to be the keynote speaker for outreach at the Bay Area Sunday School Convention.
Since I was leading several workshops of my own, I was only able to attend one of Kim’s … but her presentation blew me away.
The room was standing room only. Kim knew her topic so well that she mesmerized the people in that room … and motivated them to do outreach in their own churches.
*She put together ways for our church to reach its community … and built bridges with the local Chamber of Commerce.
*She visited Moldova four years in a row on mission trips … leading teams from our church the last three years.
*She met a pastor from Kenya named Peter online. She corresponded with him for nine months … then took a girlfriend from church and flew to Kenya to meet Peter. She trained Peter in various aspects of ministry … trained other pastors as well … taught them how to reach out … and brought Peter to our church in the Bay Area.
Today, Peter leads a thriving church in Nairobi, and as a bishop, he oversees 28 other pastors. After we left our last church, Kim connected with a church in Atlanta … flew to Kenya … and trained two pastors from that church … and they now work closely with Peter to reach people in Kenya for Jesus.
*She raised $43,000 for a well in Peter’s village in less than three months. She flew to Kenya with a team from our church to dedicate the well … and spent the day with the Vice President of Kenya.
Although many Christian leaders are uncomfortable with women in leadership, Kim has always served voluntarily under my direction and done it all with grace and sensitivity.
I love that about her.
Finally, Kim knows how to get things done.
Three years ago, I flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be trained to be an interim pastor. It seemed like the only ministry option available to me at my age.
While I was there, the director of the ministry asked me if I’d be willing to go to New Hampshire to help out a church that was losing its pastor. I instantly said, “Yes.”
Kim and I drove across the country where I served as interim pastor for only three months. (The church called a pastor the second week we were there.) Then we drove back to Southern California … without a new assignment.
My director mentioned several possible assignments in places as varied as Louisiana … South Dakota … Chicago … and upstate New York … but nothing materialized … and we were running out of time.
Finally, the director matched me up with a church in New York, and Kim and I flew there for an extended weekend … hoping and praying that things would work out.
But they didn’t, and as we were driving back to LaGuardia Airport, our future looked bleak.
With a burst of inspiration, Kim suddenly said, “I know what we can do. I can start a preschool in our house.”
Within a few weeks, we rented a larger house in a better location … Kim sent in her application to the state … we began acquiring play equipment and tables and supplies … and on August 5, 2013, we launched Little Explorers Preschool.
The school has gone very well. Kim directs, teaches, works with parents, and manages two employees, while I do the finances, marketing, cleaning, and more.
We work long hours, but enjoy having nights and weekends free … especially to drive through the mountains to see our two grandsons in Orange County.
Is ours a perfect marriage? No. We’re both strong-willed individuals. We are both expressive and opinionated. I can be stubborn, and Kim can be feisty … so at least life together is never dull!
I love that about her.
I am glad that God gave me Kim because:
*She is hilarious. She makes me laugh … constantly. She recently posted a photo online promoting the preschool and wrote, “The children never cease to be bored.” I laughed my head off … and when I pointed out what that phrase meant, she didn’t get it … so I laughed some more.
*She is appreciative. When I do even the most mundane tasks, she thanks me. When I do something surprising, she is grateful. Her lack of entitlement makes serving her a joy.
*She never nags me. She might remind me of something I promised to do, but she’ll tell me once and trust that I’ll come through.
*She has always supported my love for sports. Although she’s gone to many games with me, she’s happy for me to watch baseball, football, and basketball as much as I want … and has never complained about it.
*She and I can talk for hours and never run out of things to discuss. That’s always a sign that you married the right person.
*She loves the Lord. I tell her that on our first date, I fell in love with her heart … and to this day, that love has grown larger and stronger.
Even though we are exact opposites as far as our personalities go, we enjoy a deep, abiding love that has only grown stronger with time.
I don’t like it when people say, “I have the greatest wife in the world.” The statement may be emotionally understandable, but it’s ultimately illogical … and is a way of saying, “My woman is better than yours.”
I’d rather say, “I married the right person for me” … and by God’s grace, I did.
Happy 40th anniversary, Sweetheart!