Rick and I were married on December 21, 1969. Looking back now, I wonder how we could have done such a thing to my parents. A Christmas wedding? Within months after they resettled (in a trailer) and started building (by their own hands) their retirement home in the Applegate Valley of Oregon? I did most of the planning because Mom was far away. Rick had little say because he was serving as a Marine at El Toro at the time. I was a women’s libber then and had the word “obey” cut out of the ceremony. All Rick needed to do was get to the church on time. His superior officer thought it a joke to delay the request for leave until Rick made it clear he’d go AWOL if necessary. Ah, the romance of a man on the run from the military, so he could marry the girl he loved, and then go back and serve time in the brig. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
It rained, but cleared up just before the wedding, a beautiful candlelight ceremony in an old New England style church in Pleasanton. My matron of honor and two bridesmaids were beautiful in gold velvet gowns and the best man and four groomsmen looked handsome in their tuxedos. I’d grown up with all of them, and it was something of a shock to see everyone so dressed up. One guy even cried. I think they all stayed sober at the reception. Relatively so, anyway. My grandmother stood nose-to-nose with my mother-in-law and said Rick had better treat me right. (For those of you who have read Her Mother’s Hope – you’ll recognize Marta from that comment.) Mom Edith was somewhat taken aback. Her son was perfect, after all. My mom was teary, my dad grinning. He handed Rick a bottle of champagne before we left on our honeymoon.
Our destination was the family cabin in Pinecrest – a three hour drive. We made it to a motel about half an hour away in Tracy. We made it to the cabin the next afternoon, and home again for a huge Rivers/Johnson family Christmas Eve party, everyone teasing us about our three day honeymoon in the mountains.
A few days later, Rick and I packed my clothes and our wedding presents and headed south to our new life in Santa Ana. Rick didn’t want me living near base and we found a nice little studio apartment between freeways. The heater went out the first night and the bed collapsed. The manager grinned when he came to fix both. It can be downright embarrassing to be a newlywed. Rick’s superior officer thought it a joke to deploy Rick to Yuma, Arizona for three weeks. Ha. Ha. I job hunted and read James Michener’s Hawaii. Rick came home twice, spent a couple of hours and headed back so he’d be in time for roll call. I went down once and spent the week-end. We saw Yuma Prison.
Early years were like a roller coaster ride. We’re both strong willed, passionate people. Sometimes we went to war. But we’d also been friends since fifth grade, and we could talk and that kept us together. When Christ became the center of our lives, we stood on a firm foundation. We’ve grown up together and individually over the years. Storms still come, but we hunker down and hang onto Jesus and take it one step at a time.
God used the difficulties and battles of the past to bring us to where we are today. We’re still growing up and changing. Rick can’t run miles with a fifty pound pack on his back, and I’m not a size eight anymore, but there’s still fire in the hearth. The love we have for one another now is stronger and deeper than it was forty-three years ago, though we still manage to surprise one another occasionally. Each year that comes will bring change and enrichment to whatever plans God has for us.
To the Lord who brought us together – thank You! To the Lord who held us together – thank You! To YOU, Lord, be the glory.