September 1998. I am married and precious and 23. I was a seminary drop out with a Family and Consumer Science degree and we were living in a crappy apartment that Lucas had previously signed a lease with his friend to inhabit. When you call and instruct a boy to marry you, you inherent the bachelor pad lease. Note to self, make this move in November and not February.
Our apartment was so cozy that we could jump from the bedroom doorway to the bed. There was not room for a bedside table. The bathroom door hardly closed. We went through 3 refrigerators in 2 months. The stories of that year and a half are things that new marriages are made of. There were tears and much laughter and more than one month that we looked at our bank account on the 26th of the month and had $7. We shared Lucas’s first wife (that is what I called the jacked up Aggie truck) and most days he rode a bike to school so I could get to one of my 3 jobs. Let’s just say that this season made us appreciate all of the things that came along with a bit more financial stability.
In early 1999, I went to work as a part time youth director for a small United Methodist church in Rockdale, TX. On Sundays and Wednesdays Lucas and I would drive an hour there and back to serve and love OUR first youth group. It was the perfect fit for us. In that year, we fell in love with doing ministry together. We taught Sunday school, led youth group, planned trips and did lock-ins. Lucas helped with his first youth Sunday and it was as special and meaningful as good ministry is supposed to be. We loved it. We loved the families. We loved the conversations. We loved that we were on mission for Jesus together.
Lucas graduated in December of 1999 and we moved to League City. When you marry a boy that has been saving for his first house since he was 16, you have a downpayment before you have your first “real” job. Of course, only pre-real estate bust could you get a home loan with an offer letter. We immediately began looking for a church home in our area. It was also during this time that my grandmother was undergoing cancer treatment so I was often back and forth from Mississippi. I knew that Lucas was excited to find a church because he would visit by himself on weekends that I was away.
One of those Sundays, he visited a neighborhood church that announced that they were looking for a youth director. I had no intention of going immediately on another church staff. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do all day as Lucas worked and we hardly had money for me to be a lady of leisure. We had a four bedroom house with a king sized mattress and frame, a guest bed (which was a REALLY big splurge), a couch and a love seat. We purchased a two seater kitchen table and at that point we thought we had arrived. We were living large, but we certainly did not have disposable income for me to fancy up the joint.
When you move to a new place, the normal questions people ask include your name, where you have recently lived and your profession. When we set out to find a church, I intentionally did not mention that I “knew” anything about church work. I wanted to find a church that we could love, not an employer. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to work full time in vocational ministry. That was short lived. Upon receiving a call from the Associate Pastor to thank us for visiting, apparently I asked questions that were a dead giveaway. I knew too much. She quickly picked up on my love for the Church and students. Within weeks, I was in a final interview, and by March 1, I was on full time staff as the Director of Youth Ministry.
The church got a package deal with us. And really, Lucas was the best bonus. I could plan and organize and do the details. I could impart wisdom and offer friendship. But Lucas, he was the fun one. The worst part of being my husband was that he had to follow my rules. In the first 3 years of our marriage, we grew to love serving and working and playing and dreaming as we journeyed with some of the dearest people in our lives, still to this day. The memories we made and the laughter and tears that we shared as we served and skied and canoed and taught and played and worshiped and drove and chaperoned were foundational to our love of Church. There is nothing that can take that pure joy away from us as a couple.
And as we grew to love other people’s kids, we began to dream about what it would look like to be parents ourselves. We had handled youth camp, how much harder could it get? It was with that insane naivety that we began praying for the “right time” to talk about a family. And if you have ever navigated these waters, you know that you are never really ready. Never.