Three years ago today, I said "I will" instead of "I do."
Since then, Allison and I have lived in residence housing, changed career paths, moved states, found new jobs, gone from a 900 sq ft apartment to a 200 sq foot apartment, both enrolled in graduate school in two different cities on two different campuses, one of us lived on a dairy free and gluten free diet, bought three iPads and five iPhones, had money and not had money, one of us has graduated from graduate school, and we've made the difficult decision to live 9 hours by car and 2 hours by plane away from each other in the coming year. Exciting opportunities, difficult decision.
Because we begin this next year, and because today happened to be our anniversary, I asked Allison if I could blog about what this marriage has meant to me recently. She said as long as I didn't say bad stuff (are there bad things to say?) it was okay.
Marriage has been one of the greatest things one could ask for. It has been everything I thought it would be and much that I wasn't expecting. We've learned how to make decisions together, be completely and utterly honest with each other, discuss fairness, and truly understand how one is the extension of the other. This is why I write today. Allison has taught me many things throughout our marriage, I thought it'd be nice to reflect on just one of them.
As we have been married, Allison has made a career change. She's now committed herself to working in the life of college students on college campuses, trying to make a difference in both organizations and individuals, Throughout my time observing her intern at Florida Southern and then work and be a student here at NC State, I've been able to observe the difference she makes in the lives of her students. She understands something that is crucial for someone in the life of student affairs at the collegiate level: the college experience is about relationships.
When we first moved to Raleigh, I was working at a church outside of Raleigh, leading the music for worship at a new church plant. It was an enriching experience with both highs and lows. I got to know a lot of people and I grew both as a musician and music director. I was new to the game and young and had some incredible mentors along the way. But, I still thought of the experience as a strategic one. What were we going to do to grow this church? What did we have to do to attract people to this church?
Then, this year, I began work as an intern for the Duke Wesley Fellowship. One of the first things I noticed about this group was the fact that they loved each other. They loved being around each other. They were active on campus and loved the true sense of fellowship. It struck me: this ministry wasn't about strategic moves...this ministry was about relationships.
I think that it was about this time that I began to notice this in Allison's work. She talked on the phone with students. She went to lunch with them. She helped them through their struggles, encouraged them, and as necessary, held them accountable to the work they promised they'd accomplish and yet failed to accomplish. She was not only an advisor to them, she was a mentor. This struck me, and it began to be the way that I saw my work with Duke Wesley. Those men's small group times when only two people showed up? They were worth the time. That time when I happened upon a student struggling with the workload? Worth the time I took and the assignment I put on the back burner.
Over the past year I haven't been able to observe Allison work as much as I'd hoped to. But, the short times that I did, the impression that she made on her students astonished me. She truly cares for her students. She makes their college experience about them, and how best they can experience it. She encourages them to put into college what they want to get out. She puts a deep amount of energy into getting to know her students and it shows.
Next year, she'll be continuing her work in another state, back at our alma mater. We will talk over FaceTime, Skype, text, phone, and hopefully a little face to face. As little as I was able to observe her work these past few years, it will be even less in this coming year. But, I've already learned a huge lesson from her that I'm sure to carry with me as I finish up my last year in Seminary, with my RAs, and with Duke Wesley: the college experience is about the formation of the college student. This time in the life of the student is one of the most formative times the student will ever have. As someone employed by the university working one on one with students, your job is to make that as smooth and effective as possible.
I only hope I can hold a candle to the work Allison has done. I always want to see her as an extension of me and me as an extension of her throughout the rest of our lives. I hope that I can be that extension of her in the Triangle when she heads back to Florida. I hope I can care for my students as much as she cares for hers.
Allison, I love you. It's been a great three years together and I can't wait for the rest of our lives.