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My youngest brother became engaged a few weeks ago. My future sister-in-law is an amazing and talented young lady, with beauty on the inside and out, someone who sharpens and challenges him, someone who sits down and plays with my kids, someone of whom we’ve all grown quite fond. We are blessed beyond description by the addition of her into our family.

My brother had asked me to stealthily photograph the proposal, so I was privileged to go to a beautiful park on a beautiful morning and see the beginning of their official start into forever. Man, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a teensy tiny bit of me that wished it was my big day all over again.

I wouldn’t call it jealousy, but maybe nostalgia. Of course, nostalgia can have a twinge of jealousy shading it. I mean, I had to plan my wedding twelve years ago without Pinterest. Come on, ladies. How did we do it?

Hearing about any proposal makes me reminisce about ours. It was our senior year of college. He proposed to me on our college football field, site of the games in which he had played and where I had supported him from the bleachers. My sister had led me there that evening, to a picnic complete with a thermos of hot chocolate, where he read to me from a devotion book for engaged couples and then asked me to marry him. At the house I shared that year with seven other girls, my roommates had prepared a champagne toast that turned into an epic cake fight. It was a simple proposal that reflected the uncomplicated boy I had grown to love and cherish. And I still do love and cherish that boy – beyond what my words can express.

Thinking about our engagement and our wedding also makes me reminisce about the people we were at that time in our lives. We’re a long way from those wide-eyed young kids who had no idea what living out a marriage truly meant, and how challenging it can be. At what point is it that your significant other stops being the shiny new toy and becomes something so omnipresent in your life that you take him or her for granted?

Fast forwarding back to the night of my brother’s proposal, my husband asked me to cut his hair. I don’t consider myself anywhere near professional grade as a barber, but apparently my skills are proficient enough for him. As the electric razor hummed in my hand and through his hair, I teased him a bit about the gray strands that have been steadily increasing among the dark brown over our time together. (I rub it in his face quite a lot that I still don’t have any yet. I probably just jinxed myself by sharing that.)

Those gray strands represent a lot more than time. They stand for everything that has happened during our years together. They started popping out in our first years of newlywed-dom, with our first arguments and the adjustments that come from living in close quarters with someone – even someone with whom you pledged to love “for better or for worse”, which, by the way, shouldn’t cover squeezing the toothpaste from the middle because there are limits. More gray hairs have sprung up through work changes and moves, two apartments and three different houses, and four precious kids. We have faced more difficult challenges together than we ever could have imagined happening when we were starting our lives together.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? We were starting our lives together. From that day that our future as a permanent couple was solidified, we were beginning “the rest of our lives.” We may have been a dreamy-eyed twosome who talked about growing old with each other, but now we’re living it. The proof is in those gray hairs and in the lines beginning to creep across our faces, and all of the memories we’ve shared.

Twelve years isn’t an extremely long time to be married. I don’t mean to sound like an old married biddy. My husband and I are not pros at marriage, and we haven’t discovered the secret of having a perfect marriage. We know better than to think we have it all figured out.

But I realized something that night. The romantic visions of “the future” and “the rest of our lives” and “growing old together” aren’t just things you say to each other at the beginning.

That future we looked forward to is right now. And it has been occurring over the entirety of our marriage. There is no “golden time” of marriage; every day is an opportunity to make a memory that will be enshrined in our mental book of moments we treasure. We’re living out the promises we made on our wedding day, every day. We got what we wanted – the chance to “grow old” with someone, without knowing ahead of time what that means or how it will happen or even how long we will have together.

I don’t want to waste any of the here and now, in life in general or in my marriage. When I look back at the last twelve years, I see many ups and downs. Through the rest of our time together, we will continue to have challenges and victories. I want to strive for contentment and joy in the little and big things that come our way, so that at any point in time, I am acknowledging the blessing that companionship brings.

Our engagement and wedding day may have been twelve years ago, but our marriage is today and tomorrow and every day after that. I’ll let the nostalgia for the past propel me into the beauty and messiness of the present.

And use Pinterest to help plan a really amazing rehearsal dinner.

Angela Erickson

Born in Colorado, Angela married a handsome Texan and spend ten years living down in the South before recently moving back to her home state. She and her husband Kyle spent seven years fostering children in the state of Texas and have adopted four - three girls and a boy. She has served as a youth director and as a middle school teacher, and is currently enjoying a season of life as a full-time mama. Angela loves reading, writing, music, running, and spending time with family and friends. She is borderline addicted to puttering around on ancestry.com, and is also a enthusiastic anglophile. Her blog can be found at http://fosteringjourneys.blogspot.com/

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