Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

How I Accidentally Fell in Love with a Farmer

11 Feb

Ours was not love at first sight.

Dairy Man was a friend of my college housemate. The first time I remember him was when he came to my door looking for her.

“Is Amanda here?”
 
“No, sorry.”
 
“Ok. Hey, would you like to get coffee sometime?”
 
“Um. What was your name again?”

DM wants me to point out that I’m oversimplifying this exchange, but that was the gist. He wasn’t on my radar until that moment, even though his friends had been pushing him the direction of Amanda’s single (and ravishing) housemate for a while.

I was startled but I said yes.

So we went out for coffee. Hands cupped around warm mugs, we talked comfortably for a couple of hours. I came home and told a friend, “It was fun. He’s really nice. But there weren’t any sparks.”

….

Fast forward six months.

DM had become one of my best friends. We studied together, spent hours engaged in witty repartee on AIM (#90schild), and resisted the less-than-subtle attempts of our friends to get us together.

Well, at least I did.

I let that poor boy chase me for the better part of a year, but I just wasn’t ready. I was selfish. I couldn’t get over the farmer thing. We were constantly embroiled in typical 20-something college drama deserving of a reality show. Will she? Won’t she? It was exhausting and nobody got a rose.

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Then I got accepted to a semester program in Chicago. DM’s frustration with my coquettish ways had reached a boiling point. We had a huge fight before I left and decided not to talk for a while.

….

Chicago was an incredible experience. I shared a studio apartment with a bed in the wall and a kitchen in the closet. I tried Indian food. I interned at the Museum of Contemporary Art by day and spent my nights going to plays, ballets, museums, and modern dance performances in empty swimming pools (just as weird as it sounds). I loved everything about the city.

But something still tugged on my heart.

Every morning as I walked the 15 blocks to my office, I talked to my sister on the phone. Many months later Mandy told me that I mentioned Dairy Man in almost every single call. I said that I missed him. That I wondered what he was doing. That it was killing me not to talk to him.

I had escaped Michigan for the big city, but I hadn’t escaped him.

….

He was the first person I called when I moved back and we started dating a couple of days later. It was instantly comfortable, perfectly right, as if this is what was supposed to happen all along.

We were so happy. Crazy about each other. But we weren’t out of the woods yet.

I still didn’t love the farmer thing, but DM talked about moving away after college, working for the commodities exchange in Chicago, trying something new. I clung to this hope.

….

The sun felt unbearably hot on my head as I sat in silence, trying to digest what he had just told me.

“Jess, I’m going to stay here and work on the dairy.”

My heart sank into my shoes. I suddenly wanted to leap from the bed of his red truck and run until my lungs burned. But I was frozen.

We had talked about this. After we graduated from college, DM went home to work on the farm and save some money. I knew there was a possibility of his staying on the dairy, but he seemed so sure he wanted to get out of West Michigan and experience something new. That was my expectation, my deepest yearning.

Now it was August. I still hadn’t found a job in Chicago and DM was planning to stay here.

I felt silly for hoping. I felt silly for thinking that I could coerce him into my world of sushi and skyscrapers.

I should have known his heart was too deeply rooted in farming.

This was my first true introduction to an undeniable truth: farming is not a job, it’s a life. It was in DM’s blood. It pulsed through his body like oxygen. He couldn’t fathom leaving the work that made him feel most alive. I couldn’t fault him that. But that didn’t make my choice any easier. At a very young stage in our relationship, I had to decide: Chicago or him?

Because I knew in my heart that long distance wouldn’t work. Once my feet left Michigan soil, I wouldn’t be back for a while.

I wanted an adventurous life. But this boy was offering a farm.

“I just don’t know if I can do this.”

….

Happy tears burned my eyes as I rounded the corner, arms locked with my dad, white dress swishing.

And then I saw him. My love, my life, smiling and waiting at the front of the church.

Violin strains of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve swelled around me in the most visceral way imaginable. I could barely breathe.

I kept walking, unable to take my eyes off the man in front of me.

We had come so far. We had crossed so many valleys together. I was young and terrified, but I did not doubt my choice.

For whatever reason in God’s design, I was going to marry a dairy farmer.

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….

And now we’re here. 900 words, nine years (five and a half married), two barns, one baby, and hundreds of cows later.

Becoming a farm wife has become surprisingly normal, but I don’t ever want to forget that it wasn’t easy to get here. I had to overcome a lot of fear, stubbornness, and unreasonable expectations before admitting that, EGADS, I was in love with a dairyman.

I’m so glad he stuck with me.

Because love isn’t always obvious or simple. It isn’t something you just fall into. It’s a choice you make every day.

As I look ahead to Valentine’s Day this weekend—that ubiquitous holiday of candy hearts and overpriced red roses—I am grateful for our kind of love. This love is hard-fought. This love is not perfect nor without cow manure tracked into the house, but it’s real. We make each other better through our differences.

Our love story reminds me that I chose this life. I chose him. I wasn’t looking for what DM offered, but God knew it was exactly what I needed.

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“If it is right, it happens—the main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.” —John Steinbeck

8 Things I Learned About Love From My Parents

14 Feb

On this overblown, Hallmark-ed, commercialized day called Valentine’s Day, I like to take a moment to think seriously about the loving relationships that have shaped my life and my own marriage.

Despite Dairy Man and I being pretty awesome already (and ever so humble), we have both learned a lot about happy marriages from our parents and grandparents.  All of the relationships were different, but each one taught us something important.

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As you can see, Dairy Man and I come from good-looking stock. And yes, my dad (bottom right) DID have a legendary ’stache on his wedding day.

Nearly everything I know about love comes from observing my parents. Those crazy kids have a quirky, steadfast love that has stood the test of 33 years.

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My parents aren’t showy, but it’s impossible not to soak up some marital goodness to apply to my own relationship. So, let’s take a stroll through Dave & Judy Marriage 101.

8 Things I’ve Learned About Love From My Parents

1: Love is not always equal

One of the wisest things I’ve ever heard about marriage came from my mom. When Dairy Man and I first got married, I had delusions of a perfectly egalitarian relationship. I envisioned a line in the sand with “my duties” on this side and “his duties” on the other. But life is a little messier than that, especially during a farm wife’s first planting season. I was crying on the phone one night to my mom about being lonely, feeling like I was doing all of the work, and she said to me: “Jess, in a marriage you can’t be so concerned about things being perfectly 50/50. You both have to give 100 percent–all of the time. Things aren’t always going to be equal. You might have to take turns carrying the other. But you should both always try to give 100 percent. That’s what love is.” (Read more about this revelation here.)

2: Show your children your love

I have absolutely no doubt that my parents love each other. They were free and easy with hugs and kisses in front of us kids (even amidst a chorus of “Eeeeeeeeewwww!!” and my mom swatting my dad away, “Dave, get off me!”) and weren’t afraid to say “I love you.” When Dairy Man and I have a family someday, I want to emulate my parents and make sure to thoroughly mortify and embarrass my children with a little Mom&Dad PDA.

3: Keep laughing

My parents are dorks. There are no two ways about it. They make up their own words and phrases (like “sugarjets” and “ookums”), tease, poke, and laugh. They don’t take life too seriously. Sometimes they even wrestle at Christmas.

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It’s easy to see how my entire family ended up being so weird.

4: Money isn’t important

My parents do not express love in gifts or extravagant experiences. It’s painful for them to spend money on “frivolous” things like soda at a restaurant or new shoes when the old ones don’t have holes yet. Basically they are good upstanding Dutch folk. Not surprisingly, my mom doesn’t really like flowers: “Why spend good money on something that’s going to die? I’d rather have a puzzle.” One year my dad found a way to get around this. While he was rollerblading, he saw some flowers growing alongside the road. Being the hopeless romantic he is, he plucked a bouquet and bladed it home. My mom was thrilled. Because she got flowers on her anniversary? No. Because my dad hadn’t spent a cent on them. That’s love, people.

5: Failure is not an option

It’s inevitable that parents will fight in front of their kids at some point. Mine were no different. But I still remember what they would tell us if we witnessed an argument: “Don’t forget, your dad/mom and I might fight, but I want you to know that we love each other very much and will be together forever.” They taught me early on that marriage vows are forever. My parents will be together for better and worse, in sickness and health, for richer for poorer, as long as they live.

6: Being happy is more important than being right

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the happiest times in my parents’ marriage were often after someone said “I’m sorry.” While there is great delight in being right (my dad and I delight in it just a little too much), it is a far more beautiful, loving act to let things go. If DM and I have a fight, the quickest way to happiness is for someone to let go of the need to be right.

7: Faith sustains a marriage

My parents’ marriage is founded on more than respect and love. They’re the first to admit that #5 would be impossible without God’s help. Every step they take as a couple stems from prayer and deep faith. This faith has sustained them through the best and worst that life has to offer.

8: Happiness is found in mutual hobbies

My parents became empty-nesters a few years ago when my little brother went to college. After getting reacquainted in this post-spawn world, they found a mutual love for hiking in the dunes by Lake Michigan. On one of their hikes, my dad stuck a large branch into the sand and tied a ribbon to it. Over many months, my parents added more ribbon and string to the branch. Other hikers did the same. There’s something wonderful and symbolic about this branch.

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I only hope to have a marriage as full of love and laughter as my parents. Or my in-laws (shout out to Kent and Vonnie) or grandparents (Bill and Shirley; August and Anne; Roy and Gloria; Marv and Virginia), for that matter. Dairy Man and I are surrounded by examples of steadfast, godly love.

And that’s something worth celebrating on this day of chalky candy hearts and overpriced roses!

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So, dear reader, now it’s your turn to share.
What have YOU learned about love from your parents, step-parents, or grandparents?

On Real Love

14 Feb

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”

-from Sonnet XVII, Pablo Neruda

Even on this highly commercialized and overblown holiday, I don’t mind being reminded of my promise to love. I am grateful my husband makes the same promise.

I also thank God for love in all of its forms: familylove, friendlove, and puppylove. These selfless expressions make any day, even one drowning in fuzzy bears and pink macaroons, a blessing.

Personally, I believe that love is a choice you make every single day. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a decision. The dairy man and I choose to love each other despite all of our imperfections. We choose to trust, forgive, and sacrifice. We made an irrevocable promise to spend life together and we continue to affirm that choice every day. This love isn’t based on infatuation or perfection, it’s based on acceptance. It cannot be earned or forced.

Each morning, I choose this man all over again. I choose his wonderful habits alongside those that drive me batty. I choose his steady protection alongside his frequent absences. I choose to be on his team, on his side, in his corner, until the day that I die. I choose to sacrifice myself and trust that he will do the same. In a way, there’s something terribly beautiful about real love.

Now that I’ve gotten the obligatory mush out of my system: Go forth and accept love (in all of its forms) with joy!

Happy Valentine’s Day.