No, that's not a typo. Those are my wife's initials, she being the lovely LaRena Marjorey Chancellor Stuckwisch. Today is her birthday. Logically, I know that she can't still be 29 and counting, but she has been aging gracefully and is becoming more beautiful as the years go by.
She was seventeen when we met and fell in love, nineteen when we got married, and almost twenty-one when she delivered our firstborn (who is now as old as we both were when she arrived). Whenever I look at pictures of the two of us back then, I marvel at how young we look; it's no wonder that everyone else marveled a bit at the time. What can I say? We probably weren't ready to get married (though who ever is?), but it's all worked our rather wonderfully, and I don't suppose that we'd be the people that we are today, nor would we have the family that we do, if we had proceeded with more caution. I don't chalk any of it up to luck, nor even love, nor good planning on my part, but simply to the grace of God.
I would have liked to wine and dine my dear bride on this day, but, alas, there was no time in the schedule for it. Shucks, I hardly got to see her. I did get to give her the present that Zach and I picked out and bought for her together while I was in Texas. And I was tickled for her to have such a great mail day: several cards and a package! That's cool. I'm aiming now for Valentine's Day. I figure, if I could feast with Justinian on his Ash Wednesday birthday, it'll be okay to feast with my wife on the commemoration of a holy martyr during Lent. (For the record, though, let me say that decadent extravagance is not usually the best or most salutary way to honor the memory of any martyr, even if he did set a precedent for sending heart-shaped cards to people. Maybe the chocolate hearts and flowers could be saved for the dawning of Easter?)
My better half is not without her faults and weaknesses, I realize. That's probably a good thing, lest she would otherwise outshine me all the more than she already does! Her righteousness and holiness are by grace through faith in Christ, to be sure, but her civil righteousness surely must include her patience in putting up with me. For that, she ought to be canonized as a saint of exemplary virtue. Really, she is amazing in her encouragement and support, and in all the ways that she has sacrificed for the sake of my vocations and stations in life. Being a pastor's wife is, I think, one of the most difficult and thankless occupations in the world, but she handles it with real grace and charm and poise. I've long since lost count of the times that people have complimented her to me, because she simply radiates genuine care and concern and compassion for others. She's got a clever and creative mind, interesting thoughts and observations on life, a seemingly neverending capacity for great ideas, the drive and energy to make things happen, and a general enthusiasm for the little things that mean a lot. Living with such a remarkable woman has spoiled me, and I far too easily take her for granted, I'm ashamed to say. I need to be a better listener, and for my own sake as well as hers I need to more attentive.
I'll never forget the time when she conveyed to me that her hopes and dreams and aspirations were tied up in mine. I still find that incredibly humbling, and sometimes overwhelming. I think that's how it is for many wives; their identity is wrapped up in their husbands, despite the fact that we husbands too often fail to consider it or take our wives into account as we go about our routines. The fact of the matter is that I wouldn't be the man I am today, nor where I am today, if not for LaRena. So, how is it that I can sometimes go days at a time without thinking of that or acknowledging that? Her birthday is certainly an appropriate occasion to recognize her importance and significance, but such things ought to be the norm and not the exception. That would be a gift that keeps on giving. Mental note to self: Do better.
There are lots of things I love and appreciate about my wife. She's smart and conscientious. She's got energy and enthusiasm for all sorts of plans and projects. She's naturally friendly and a great conversationalist. She's got a neat artistic flair, as well as both a passion and a knack for gardening. She knows how to stretch a dime and make the most of what she's got to work with. Along with all of that, she's quite pretty, too. And there's lots more that could be said, but I have to add that I treasure her commitment to being a mother, and I give thanks for all that she has done (and continues to do) in bearing and rearing our children. As much as she loves it, I know that it's not easy. That's something I don't ever take lightly or for granted.