One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Part 3 - Lee Family: Our Birth - Foster - Adoptive Journey to 20 Children: Part 3

(This is Part 3 of our story. Our marriage.) 

Besides, I met my current husband while I was working at the large law firm....

My husband was an employee of my client.  We met after he avoided me for months.  I was representing the company where he worked as their controller (the money guy).  He hated attorneys and made it a point to be obnoxious to me when I called to try to set up an appointment to answer questions about an accident involving one of the company’s truck drivers, who no longer worked for the company. 

Finally, we reached a deadline and he could no longer put me off.  Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting to find love when we finally met to answer mundane questions about an accident he knew nothing about.

But, long story short:  After pulling an all-nighter to write an appeal brief to the Alabama Supreme Court, I arrived almost comatose in my $300 Ralph Lauren jacket and an expensive black designer skirt to my future husband’s office. In my defense, that was the 1980’s when I was a YUPpie (young urban professional) with plenty of money, lots of credit, good taste, and no other obligations except my house, my dog and two cats.  Apparently some of my philanthropic ideas and fears of being labeled rich weren’t that disturbing to me during this time. But as He always does, God used that period to teach me something about giving up my hard-earned money for something better.

Anyway, my future husband and I went through the pleasantries of introducing ourselves and I feigned interest in whatever I saw that allowed me to start a conversation so that we could get to the business of answering questions.  I don’t know at what point he knew he was going to marry me – but apparently he had that revelation during that initial meeting, because he told his father about it within 3 weeks of meeting me.   

Fortunately, he didn’t let me in on his crazy thoughts because I would have run the other way.  I was in love with someone else who had recently dumped me and I was waiting on him to come to his senses.  But God has a sense of humor and he knew the right man for me to marry.

On the way out the door I commented on a “Tide Pride” plaque hanging on his wall.  The legendary Auburn/Alabama Iron Bowl was scheduled for that weekend and my keen legal mind led me to believe he might be a Bama fan!  That was the opening he was looking for.  He mentioned that he had an extra ticket and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him. 

Floored and surprised, I actually had to call our office manager at the law firm to find out if it was okay for me to go to the game with a client.  Female attorneys were a relatively new breed in Alabama in the late 1980’s and I had no idea what was allowed.  Apparently, it was okay.  But I made it clear this was not a date.  Just a game.  And to be sure, I arranged for my best friend from college (who – coincidentally -- lived in Birmingham) to have “plans with me” for 6:00 p.m. so I would have an excuse to end the day early. 

So we went to the game and all I can remember is struggling to get up the long stairs at the stadium because I had just run 5 miles in the Turkey Trot race the morning before.  I was in excruciating pain and I didn’t want him to know because he was running 10 miles a day around that time and I didn’t want to look like a wimp!  I still had no romantic interest whatsoever.  But he had enough for both of us and was smart enough to remain low-key.  He was a nice guy and I felt like it was okay to cancel my 6:00 p.m. escape plan.  The rest is history. 

Oh, except for the fact that we lived together before we got married.  He had been married before too.  We were both technically Christians – but neither of us lived a life that allowed anyone to know that.  We didn’t consider ourselves living in sin.  Not many of my children know this fact.  It isn’t a secret, but it isn’t something we are proud to announce. Up to this point, we have told each of them on a need to know basis. 

We now think differently about the impact of our decision at that time!  But many of my adult children who claim to be Christians have fallen into the same trap of believing that there is no harm in living together before marriage.  We tell them our story and explain what we now understand.  But we also know that sometimes, our adult kids have to learn lessons directly from God.  I trust that God will use their situations for his good.

On June 3, 1989,  approximately 6 months after we first met – we eloped at sunset on a beautiful yacht in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.  As I am making my way down the narrow isle from the stern to the bow with my father beside me, I had my first real experience with the God I now know.

I considered myself a Christian, but not one who lived my life any differently than anyone else in the world.  Except I was a really nice person who always put the needs of others above my own.  But anyone can do that. 

Anyway, as my father walked behind me - sideways down the edge of the boat, serious doubts crept into my mind.  I realized that I was about to marry a man that didn’t meet any of my pre-conceived ideas about who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  He was just a really good guy that loved me and was willing to put up with my passionate, loud views about the world. 

As I’m shimmying down the foot-wide passage talking to my father and doubts racing through my head - I hear a voice in my head say very clearly, “Anna.  It’s okay.  This is the man you are supposed to marry.  Now go to him.” 

To date, it was the strangest moment of my life.  The entire ceremony, all I could do was try to make sense of that voice in my head.  Obviously, I said my vows and twenty-three years ago (TODAY AS A MATTER OF FACT), it’s pretty clear it was God and He was telling me to set-aside logic and my fears and marry a man that I barely knew and was not at all what I thought I needed.

There are many stories to tell about our marriage, but suffice it to say it has been a constant growth process as we both live and learn and love.  Having both been divorced, we were certain about one thing – we were committed to each other no matter what.  Frequently, we have had to rely on that commitment.  

Sometimes all I can say is, “We are committed until death do us part, and I’m thinking that death for one of us seems like a really good option right now!”  And I’m not just talking.  I seriously feel that way. 

I’m good at expressing my feelings. But sometimes, I should keep my feelings to myself.  

The reality is that sometimes the commitment is the only thing that holds our marriage together. If we depended on how we felt or how the other person acted, we would have had plenty of reasons to end it.

I know that I have been so unhappy at times that I felt like I would rather be alone – but since we both know that we must stay together, it limits our choices.  Either we live in misery, kill each other, or work it out.  Generally, we work it out. Although there was a period lasting almost a year when we were parenting 9 kids and could barely stand each other.

Early on in our foster/adoptive journey, we decided to make exactly the same commitment to the children that came into our home.  It is a ‘til death do us part” commitment that says you can’t act your way out of our house.  We try not to focus on the death part – but the commitment. We did this because we are fostering and adopting kids with dramatic pasts and with a lot of baggage and we know that they will try to act out and test the limits.  It isn’t personal – even though I must admit it feels like it many times.  They just wanted to see what they can get away with and for many – it is an intentional act to get sent away because they don’t want to form any long-term commitments. 

We have never heard of another family that has made this kind of commitment to their foster/adoptive children. It has been a hard promise to keep.  Sometimes it feels like it will destroy us.  Often, we have to let the children leave us for a time.  But we have always accepted them back – much like the prodigal son.  In fact, we have used that story to explain to the kids why we are willing to take them back, even when it is clear they have done nothing to deserve our unconditional commitment. But we have consistently kept our promise and we believe it has given some of our children the stability they need to settle in.  At some level we will never know the results of our choices, but we can be sure it is the right choice.  And that God would approve. 

I personally believe that God used our first failed marriages to teach us about the importance of commitment for our own marriage, and for the children that we had no idea would need that same kind of commitment. 

Twenty-three years ago today I was shopping for a wedding dress and waiting on my family to fly in a private plane down to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to attend our surprise wedding.  With only 24 hours to plan our wedding, it was so freeing to have such a short time to make decisions.  And it was perfect. 

I’m an opinionated, passionate, dedicated, over-zealous, over-achieving woman with dreams.  My husband is a quiet, dedicated, patient, determined, humble man who has not followed my dreams – but pursued them with me.  It has been hard.  Very hard.  Marriage is not what I imagined as a child.  But it is good.  And I am happy and full-filled. And I have learned a whole new respect for “arranged marriages.”  Sometimes, our own ideas of the perfect spouse aren’t quite what we imagine either. 

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