Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Number Four

Adam & Julie Johnson
August 1, 2009 
Four seems to be a special number this year. 
Today marks our 4th anniversary.
We've circled the sun four times since we said "I do" on August 1, 2009.
We've flown over the world a dozen times too.

We're basically a family of 4: a daddy, a mommy, a girl, and a boy.
 By the amount of clothing and baby boy stuff we've bought for our little guy (due any day),
you'd think he had already made his appearance! 

38.5 weeks pregnant.
Willow (2 years old) 
This past weekend, we returned to downtown Grayslake for a little photo shoot with my childhood friend, Kristi Witek. We walked around looking for places that would work as backdrops and ended up getting ice cream for Willow at Tastee Freeze. The "Entwined" sign that we posed in front of four years ago was no longer around. It had been the name of a Florist shop that has since gone out of business. Here are a few pictures from our wedding day, and also from our recent family picture session. 

Truly, four is a small number. I'm always amazed and inspired by couples who have been married for many years. These first years of marriage have been some of the hardest and most difficult of my life, but God has been using them to refine our hearts and teach us more about His love for the Church. In a way, it's the most rewarding experience of our lives. Marriage isn't about finding the 'perfect' person to complete you; rather it's about being perfected as God often uses marriage in the process of sanctification. 

Nothing can properly prepare you for all the joys and heartaches of marriage. We've been blessed in numerous ways by our family and friends. We've been upheld by the Holy Spirit, who gives us the strength to carry on and refines us in our weaknesses. Really, we've had little to complain about and any long-suffering we might walk through is minute in comparison to that of others'. We've been very blessed each year by the generosity, encouragement, hospitality, and prayers of many. And somehow, by God's grace, we love each other more now than we did on our wedding day. 

It's amazing how much I am STILL learning about Adam. This year, it finally sunk in how much Adam is obsessed with pie. Never realized how much he loves and needs to eat pie before. I've finally become proficient enough to cut his hair every six weeks. I know the secret to cooking anything Adam will love is to add onions and garlic. 

[Four Years]

It's pretty much the longest we've ever done anything.

You go to high school for four years.
Attend college for four years.

It's like we're 'graduating' into a non-newly-wed status or something.
Do we get caps and gowns or something?

I haven't seen all the pictures from this photo shoot yet--just the few that have been posted on facebook by Kristi--but I am super excited to do so after seeing these images! We're planning on Kristi taking some newborn pictures of our little guy too. 

Married Overseas 

We've lived in China for four years. And plan on adding another two years to that record. Living in China has been the best thing for our marriage, in many ways. We've had to establish ourselves in a new community, and make a home for ourselves in a land that was far from familiar. It's encouraged us to make our own traditions, try out our own recipes, discover our own niche as a growing family. It has taught us to rely on each other, to be one another's biggest advocate, and to become the closest types of confidantes.

I'm not sure how our lives or marriage would have looked if we had stayed in America. But I am incredibly grateful, for the sake of our marriage, that God placed us in China two weeks after we tied the knot. It has taught us so many lessons about ourselves, about each other, and about our relationship with God. In many ways, living overseas has put us on a crash course of fast paced learning. Perhaps someday, I could write more about all these things, but now we're still in the midst of learning these lessons.

The most profound statement I have come across since promising my forever to Adam has slowly started to reconstruct my idea of what marriage is. For some reason, it sunk in more than it ever had before about a year ago. It has given me hope on difficult days, and challenged me when I am tempted to act selfishly.

Marriage is not about being happy;
it's about giving glory to God.

There are many men out there that I could have married. Not to be conceited or's just that I often wonder how in the world I ended up marrying Adam at the age of 21.

There could have been other versions with different outcomes---but God lead me to Adam. We aren't perfect for each other. We are both sinful, selfish, finite individuals who make it through life only because of the grace of God. Every day, we have to intentionally decide that we still choose to love each other. God is powerful enough to redeem our marriage and cause it to become good--I truly believe this--and I am learning to allow my love for Adam grow in measure with hope I have found in Christ.

I am very grateful for Adam. He is incredibly generous and patient with me. He helps me to the point where I don't think I can do life without him. I was blessed with a wonderful husband and godly man...but I had no idea that he would be such a caring and sacrificial father. Praise the Lord.

Our marriage no longer affects only us.

One of the many things that I really, really love about Adam is watching him be a father to little miss Willow. He is such a wonderful dad and I fall more in love with my husband every time I see those two interact. He plays with her, teaches her, cuddles with her, wipes her nose and changes diapers, buys medicine when she's sick, and takes her on bike rides. They are two peas in a pod! I can't wait to see him interact with a son too. Sometimes I have visions of him being chased around our tiny apartment by a 3 year old Willow and a pudgy 1 year old, or of Adam teaching Willow how to play basketball, or helping with homework. It brings so much joy to my mother's-heart and I am overwhelmed with thankfulness that Adam is such a wonderful father.

I think about how he will be a father to Willow as she grows up and how much I desire for them to have a positive relationship that glorifies Christ. I want Willow to be able to understand the love of Jesus easily, because her earthly father exemplifies unconditional love to her on a daily basis.

The prayer of my heart is that Adam will be able to build a strong relationship with our son as well. That our little boy will learn what it means to be a loving, compassionate, hard-working man because of the father he has. I hope that our little boy will learn to respect women, starting at home with his mom and sister. I can imagine him opening the door for Willow when he's just a toddler, because he is learning to care for others from his dad's example.

I believe Willow will have a successful time transitioning into womanhood because of how her dad loves her. I hope that our baby boy will grow into a man of God who isn't afraid of life, but instead acts selflessly and wisely.

Now, as a young mom, I'm so glad that I have Adam next to me. I'm content to follow him, listen to him, serve him, and be a parent with him. He helps me to see that being a mom to our kids such a joy and a privilege.

Thank you, Adam, for leading us so admirably. Thank you for not 'dumping' all the parenting on me, but truly taking on the responsibilities of being a great dad. I trust you, appreciate you, and respect you so much. I hope that I can learn to be the kind of of wife that brings you honor and support. Four years has taught me that you deserve someone much better than me; thank you for loving me unconditionally.

As our fifth year of marriage commences,
I'm so thankful to be journeying through life with Adam. 

Four years ago, if you had told me that I'd no longer be teaching, that I'd be living in China, that I'd be a mom of two kids, that I'd be more in love with Adam than ever before....I wouldn't have believed you. 

But that doesn't make it any less true or any less sweet. 
I look forward to the years to come. 
I love you forever, Adam! 

Recent family photo shoot: credit to Kristi Witek
Wedding photos from Kristi Witek or Justin Oakman Photography

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