Though Jackie and I didn't meet until 2004, but I will begin our story in 1998. That year I was 15 and pregnant. I suppose everyone thinks a baby will change your life to some degree but few people understand just to what degree that is. Because of Keeleigh a lot of things were different in my life. I traded in some of my freedom as a teenager for bottles and diapers. I remember I used to leave school and tell my friends, "Well, I'm off to play house."
"Don't you wish you were just playing?" a friend asked. Really? I didn't. I was proud to have Keeleigh as my daughter from the moment those two pink lines popped up on the stick.
Fast forward a couple of years. I was a junior in high school and in love, certain that this guy was THE ONE. He was a musician and Nashville bound so I researched high paying positions in Nashville that required as little college as possible. At the the top of my findings was the paralegal profession. So I enrolled in our local community college thinking I'd be on my way in two years. Guess what? That didn't happen! My high school sweetheart and I barely made it a few months after graduation before our relationship dissolved. By that time I was immersed in my studies however and the next summer I worked as an intern at the District Attorney's office. I felt very fortunate to be gain that experience and loved the ladies that I worked with. One of those ladies invited me to bring Keeleigh to VBS at her church. While I'd visited churches throughout my life and considered myself a Christian, I definitely didn't have a church to call my own and was floundering spiritually. Taking Keeleigh to VBS was a turning point in my life. That church became home--a place of warmth and love emanating from the kind people who made it up.
Something was missing, however. I had dated a couple of guys and looking back, I just needed them to be there to keep my company. I was bored and lonely and they filled that space in my heart or so I thought. Eventually I found myself alone. Then one day at church I had a change of heart. We had a guest speaker (Paul Long, do you remember that day?) and while I don't remember the entire message I do remember him calling his wife up to the front and washing her feet, praising her for her faithful love to him. I remember him calling the husbands up to the front to pray with their families, urging them to be the men that God intended them to be. And there I sat--the loser single mother with my innocent child on the empty church pew. With tear-filled eyes I picked Keeleigh up and carried her to the front to pray. Within seconds a friendly arm wrapped itself around my heavy shoulders. "I know what you're going through," the owner of those arms told me. Then she prayed with me lifting me up before my loving Father, the same Father who'd seen her through single motherhood and had blessed her with a caring husband. My prayer that day went something like this, "God, you know the desire of my heart. I'm lonely and I want to be married. But if that's not what You want for me, God, then I'll give up that desire. I'm going to wait on You."
Months passed and within those months I confess that I did keep my eyes open for potential mates. I tried to make it clear to guys who asked me out that I wasn't in it just to kill time but that I was looking for something serious. I only went on two lunch dates (because lunch seemed so much less official to me?). Pretty soon those kind women I'd gotten to know at church started helping God along, ha ha! They suggested several different eligible bachelors in the church and each time I said, "No." Then one day they simply gave one guy my number and he called me at work asking to meet over lunch. I agreed.
That was the first day I set eyes on my husband.
I like to remind him that I knew pretty early in the game that he and I were meant to be. Part of my confidence in that fact was the relationship that developed between he and Keeleigh. Back then Keeleigh was very shy. The first night they met he ended up wrestling on the floor with her, reading her a bedtime story, and tucking her into bed. I'm pretty sure I was standing back the whole time with my mouth hanging open because she had never taken to anyone like that before. She used to stand at the door when it was time for Jackie to go home and try to block his way!
Ten months after we met, we went on a date to Chattanooga. I should have known something was up because Auburn was playing ball that night and Jackie wasn't watching it! We did a little shopping then went to dinner at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. After dinner we took a horse-drawn carriage ride and it was in that carriage that he pulled a ring out of his pocket and asked me to marry him. Again, I was left with my mouth hanging open! The driver of the carriage even said she was afraid I was going to say no because of the pause. I was simply, delightfully surprised. Of course I said, "Yes," and pushed for a short engagement. On February 5, 2005, I became Mrs. Jackie Combs.
It's hard to believe that seven years have passed since that day.
|Second Anniversary Card from Keeleigh <3|
I'd like to say it's been all sunshine and rainbows but that would be a lie. Of course we've had truly wonderful times and have joyfully added three children to our family.
We've moved 450 miles from that place where God first drew us together--another leg of our amazing journey--but there have been times when the emotional distance between us seemed even further than that. The ties that bind have been strained and we've struggled tremendously within and without. But I can truly say that I know I have a husband who loves me as Christ loves the church. Through him and the children he's given me, God has taught me so much about love and what it truly means. I don't feel as if I could even put into adequate words what I've learned. I've learned when to hold on and when to let go. I've learned when to bend so that we won't break. I've learned that there's a greater part of me that can only live outside of me--it's called love.
I pray that in our seventh year our love will deepen and that we will grow as partners, as parents, and as people. I pray that I will be the wife that he needs me to be, that God needs me to be for His glory to shine through. Reflecting on the marvelous way that God has tied up all my loose ends and woven them together into a fine tapestry helps lead me toward that conclusion. I pray that tapestry, the one bearing the story of us, will be held up for all the world to see and that what the world sees is the miracle of love--sacrificial, patient, kind, and enduring throughout the ages.
I love you, Jackie.