I'm so glad I married my best friend. It was my dream to do that. The timing of our relationship and marriage did not follow my detailed plan, but now I appreciate that Andrew and I jumped into adulthood together, and boy did we do it full force.
When we met in college I was 17 and he was a ripe old 19!! I was very clear that since I was playing two sports, soccer and basketball, I had no time for a boyfriend so we'd just keep our relationship on a friend level. Well, long story short, he became such a good friend that I just couldn't live without him. I loved that we had similar goals for our lives: God first, strong marriage, big family, and an open home. Originally I had planned that I would meet my future husband a few months after I graduated college and get married a couple of years after that. Hmmm things just weren't following that path. We got married after our junior year. Andrew continued playing baseball and I continued with basketball. With our combined scholarships, grants, loans and odd jobs we made through to graduation that next year! The song "Livin' On Love" was somewhat of a theme song.
6 months after graduation we bought Salem Emblem Shop. At the time we were still living in the government subsidised apartments for $220/month. After we bought the business we decided we should move up a notch and we moved into a very small duplex in Keizer. Rent was $485/month!
Shortly after that move, word came that Andrew's sister was pregnant with her third child and we knew that this would be the last one for them. We began to talk seriously about starting our own family as cousins the same age would be so fun. Sitting at a little way side in Keizer, overlooking the Willamette River, we both agreed we were ready to start having children. I was 22 and Andrew was 24. A year later we would be grieving the loss of our first child, Faith Petra Joy.
In 2000 we began construction on a 2600 sqft house in a fairly prestigious neighborhood, at least from where we'd come from. We started construction in February and completed it the week before Halloween. By then I was 5 months pregnant. Josiah was born that next February, 2001. I was 25 and Andrew was 26.
The next year we bought the building on 12th St. and moved the business. It was an exciting time and we also found out I was expecting again. Mia was born on the first day of spring, 2003. I was 27 and Andrew was 28.
Over the next two years we experienced some real hardships with the business. Money had become tighter and tighter and despite how hard Andrew worked or how tight we cinched the belt it just wasn't improving. At one point Andrew said, It's like there's a hole in the boat somewhere. I'm bailing like crazy but it's not making a difference." In order to keep from sinking he took some fairly drastic measures and let several people go from the business. I also began working for him several hours a week. It wasn't a fun time to say the least. The kids were with sitters way more than I wanted and we were living off very little money. The changes Andrew made at the business did allow us to discover what that hole in the boat was. Someone had been embezzling thousands of dollars a month for a few years. It was a relief to know that it had stopped but so disappointing to know all the hard work and sacrifice we had done went to pad someone else's wallet. Bit by bit we climbed out of that hole. It took determination and continued sacrifice. We had to say "No" to a lot of things while it seemed like everyone around us could say "Yes" to anything. During that painful time in 2005, sweet little Sierra was born and 6 weeks after that we downsized our home to a fixer-upper just blocks from the store. This would allow us to see Andrew some as he could come home for meals during his 14 hour days. He'd be up early, come home for lunch, work until dinner, play with the kids some, go back to work, work late and then come home and crash, Monday through Saturday. I was 30 and Andrew was 31.
Slowly things got better. Andrew had some time to work on our house and finish some projects. He'd take more Saturdays off and get more days where he was home for a late dinner and stayed home. It still wasn't a healthy schedule and our dream of a big family and open home seemed to be unrealistic. I was beginning to believe I should let those dreams go. For Andrew's 32nd birthday, just last year, we finally took a trip back up to his home town in NE Washington. Road trips are always great times for us to discuss our lives and goals. As we were driving back home, refreshed from the break and amazed at how "in their element" the kids were up there, we talked, pie-in-the-sky about what we could do to live there. We passed an RV park that also had some cabins and we began to talk about running something like that for a living. When we got home I decided to check on land and home prices for that area by looking up Zillow.com. Three For Sale flags popped up. One was well out of our price range but for some reason I clicked on it. What do you know, it's a camp for sale. Andrew and I chuckled at the irony. For some reason I emailed the realtor for more information and the next morning he called. "It's a Christian camp," he said. "The owners are willing to carry the loan." Extremely curious we planned another trip up north, only two weeks later. It was the weekend of Faith's birthday, so we would miss our annual hike in honor of her.
This past year has been one of renewed vision. It had been nose to the grind stone for so long that we had stopped living and were really existing. With a new goal in mind Andrew was able to begin running the business with less responsibility on him. Finally able to trust again, he could delegate much more. We have been able to remember the ways that God has gifted us and the experiences he's given us and the thrill we feel when those gifts are being used. It is so humbling to see the opportunity that Bear Paw Camp is to use both Andrew's and my strengths in serving the Lord. Our hope is that our family will be used to share the gospel of Christ with unbelievers and to encourage other Christians in their walk with Christ. We want the truth to be spoken at our camp, people to come in, as they are, and be renewed, and that they will find that the answer to their aching heart is Jesus. God has been our strength through loss, pain and struggle. We hope we can encourage others when they are at that point as well.
Even while we were dating I knew Andrew and I were complete opposites but because we had such similar long term goals I knew we were on the same path. I bought a book early on in our relationship called Opposites Attack, which was very encouraging to me that we could learn from each other and allow our differences to be used as tools to make us more balanced and well rounded. Now, 12 years down the road, I see how God uses our oppositeness like a yin and yang to accomplish his purposes. I have learned a lot from Andrew and I know he's learned from me, too. We've hurt each other and healed together, we've held each other's hands through the deepest of waters. This is a forever relationship for the glory of God.
Happy Anniversary to my best friend!