Next to Me
I totally botched Father’s Day this year. Chris always goes all out for my birthday and Mother’s Day. It’s pampering central. I get breakfast in bed, an entire day off from kid duty, an unbelievably sweet homemade card, and a reading nap in the hammock…total heaven. But for him for Father’s Day this year…ummm I didn’t do much. I did cook his requested meals but that’s about it. I usually do some form of heartfelt letter too, but nope, not this year. Instead, the letter still sits as a very rough draft in my journal. And the day was spent with us equally sharing parenting duty. Chris always helps me out when he can since I’m a stay-at-home mom and generally take the brunt of kid duty (which is a major task when you have four kids—two of which have unique needs). He still looks out for me even on a day that’s dedicated to him. “A sure sign of a man’s strength is how gently he loves his wife.” This is Chris…
I’m not meaning this to be a cheesy “Oh you’re the best, babe” post. I apologize in advance if it seems full of crap or seems so cheesy that it appears to have been sponsored by Kraft or a nice group of Wisconsin dairy farmers. That is not my intent. Nor do I mean this post to serve as an “aww look how sweet they are” bid for attention. This is not a Hallmark version of love; Chris and I have fought tooth and nail to be where we are.
And to think…our story as a couple all started out as a bet between Chris and his friend as to who could hook up with me first…HAHAHA Obviously Chris won that bet as once he entered the picture the other guy had zero chance. The picture at the top of this post is from when we were dating in college. We were just babies standing on a precipice, ready to dive into a mystery. Who we are as a couple has nothing to do with the luck of cupid’s arrow and has all to do with the power of Jesus to restore and the hard work of two people who want nothing more than to keep their marriage and their family together. Ours is a love of passion, pain, and a perilous path traveled together.
People tell me that I’m the glue that holds the family together, but if this is true, Chris is the one who keeps me sticky. He is the Tolkien Samwise to my Frodo Baggins traveling with me to Mordor to share the burden of the ring. He’s the Hur and Aaron to my Moses (see Exodus 17)--holding my arms up so our little army of six will win the battle. There was a time when I tried to fight my battles on my own…when I didn’t give him a chance to travel with me to Mordor or to hold my arms up for victory. And that resulted in me failing miserably without him. What I’ve learned the hard way is that I can’t do it alone, and there’s no one I’d rather do this adoption adventure with or life in general with than him.
Whether it’s your partner, mom, or best friend, find your person, or as in Gaelic, your “anam cara”—your person with whom you can share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and dreams—your soul friend. Someone who roots for you no matter what and who doesn’t quit on you no matter the cost. The person that when shit hits the fan, they are the one helping you with the shovel cleaning up the mess. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, find it (even if it’s a professional counselor) or demand it from those in positions of prominence in your life. Not every one in your life has earned the right to carry your heart though, so be careful with whom you share your soul …Wolves often masquerade as sheep. Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection says if you have one or two people you can count on with your stories then you are truly blessed. We all need someone who will say “when you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark.”
During a dark time for me, Chris shared a BBC Earth clip of a lion fighting off a band of
hyenas circling to make another lion their prey. Go ahead and watch the attached video--I’ll wait. Chris sent it as a reminder that when the hyenas of life come and circle around, he will stand and defend me. We as people are not meant to fight alone. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not right that man should be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” We are not meant to face this world by ourselves. We all need a Tartu who will be our lion and fight off the hyenas of life. We need someone on the same mission. Someone who will always be next to us.
The title of this post comes from a title of a song by the band Imagine Dragons. The song hits me in a special place every time I hear it. I’ve linked the song at the bottom, but here is a portion of the lyrics to give you a taste:
“Oh, I always let you down You're shattered on the ground But still I find you there Next to me And oh, stupid things I do I'm far from good, it's true But still I find you Next to me
There's something about the way that you always see the pretty view Overlook the blooded mess, always lookin' effortless And still you, still you want me I got no innocence, faith ain't no privilege I am a deck of cards, vice or a game of hearts And still you, still you want me…
So thank you for taking a chance on me I know it isn't easy But I hope to be worth it So thank you for taking a chance on me I know it isn't easy But I hope to be worth it”
Everyone deserves to have someone that will stay next to them; someone who will show them they are worth it. Someone who will understand even the grimiest corners of your mixed-up soul. Chris isn’t afraid of my darkness. He loves me just as it urges in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”
Chris recently got a tattoo. He has “1 Corinthians 13” tattooed along his left side. This is the well-known “love is” chapter of the Bible and has been Chris’ token scripture for a long time. I could think of nothing more fitting for him to have permanently fixed as a representation of him than this. He loves those around him with an agape Jesus-like love. Not only is he an amazing husband, but he is an amazing father as well. He is fun and crazy and engaging. To say that he is a hands-on daddy would be an understatement, and he loves his children with a veracious gentleness and ferocity. Don’t get me wrong…he’s not perfect, but he is pretty awesome. (The former line is mostly written here so Chris’ head doesn’t blow up like a balloon or so he doesn’t get too big for his britches so to speak). But, Larry and Brenda Regan, you did a good job with this guy!
I’m more vocal than Chris, and therefore, people tend to know better my side of the story with our life and this adoption odyssey. But Chris is the giant behind the scenes. Our family has a fighting chance because of him…his effort, his dedication, his heart. He can take the days when I verbal diarrhea my anger and hurt about the kids and life. And he’s wise enough to ask, “do you want a solution or just to vent?” He gets me and if he doesn’t, he’s willing to ask the questions in order to understand. He is a man who is amused by my wild. A man who is so oddly humorous, even though most of the world never gets to see that side of him. A man who falls in love slowly, but once you’ve earned his love, he is ride or die. A man who has always found my best in spite of my worst. A man who gave me chickens and honeybees. A man who lovingly calls me out on my bullshit. A man who will always follow me into the storm but will put down the anchor when my waves are too much. The phrase “if she doesn’t scare the hell out of you a little, she’s not the one” may ring a little too true for us. I am that girl—a bit of sunshine mixed in a labyrinth of complications. Chris and I have always joked he is a tree and I am a yellow balloon whose string got tangled in his branches. He keeps me from floating away; I keep him reaching higher.
There’s a visually stunning and emotionally moving film from the 1990’s called “What Dreams May Come.” The plot centers around a deceased man who travels to hell to find his wife after he discovers she has committed suicide following his death. After the perilous journey from heaven into hell, he finds his wife but because she is in her own personal hell, she has forgotten who he is. He refuses to leave her there and so makes the choice to stay in hell with her instead of leaving her there alone. He soon starts to forget who he is as well, but on the flip side, she regains her memory. The couple then makes the trip back to heaven together. Side by side they emerged from hell and found their home in heaven. Just like in the movie, with Chris, I know I will always find my way home. Because home is wherever we are TOGETHER. We’re two souls travelling the broken road together. Author Steve Maraboli writes, “Life had broken her; just as it had broken him. But when they do it together, their pieces became whole. And they continued on their journey, together, mended as one.”
Everyday I wake up thankful for the miracle that our marriage is. I would choose Chris a thousand lifetimes over. Every day I hope to be a woman worthy of being his wife. Worth the hurt, worth the sacrifice—all in a flourish of joy. We keep going forward, because as Garth Brooks says, we “just keep taking chances and having fun.” So that’s what we’re doing--taking chances and having fun, putting one foot in front of the other heading into the sometimes dark and desolate wild, and hopefully finding a little joy along the way.
And to Chris, my love, I’ve been shown more grace than I thought possible and am loved better than I could hope. “Thank you for taking a chance on me. I know it isn’t easy. But I hope to be worth it.” Thanks for choosing to be next to me.
“He broke down her walls without her even noticing. And when he rebuilt the walls, he added windows to let the sunshine in.”