**I decided to take on the blogging A-Z challenge afterall. Only I am giving myself 2 months to do it instead of 1. So for me "A" was Asperger's, "B" was, um, one of the others, and I'm officially starting at "C".**
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you were born a giant California Sea Cucumber, or an American Water Shrew? Or perhaps a Jaguar, Maned Sloth, or Common Frog? It seems that these animals have nothing in common. Some live on land, some in water. Some of them are hunters and some wait placidly for food to come to them. But they all have one thing in common. They are solitary. These guys, and many more just like them, live their whole lives alone with the exception of coming together to mate and produce young. The genetic and evolutionary drive for them to propagate their species forces them together for short periods of time. Many of these solitary species don't even raise the young that result from these clandestine meetings. They birth, lay their eggs, or do whatever they do to have young, leave them to be immediately self sufficient, and continue on with being solitary.
What if people were like this? We came together to have sex once per year, solely to possibly become pregnant, and then continued on with our solitary lives. Can you imagine? We would probably be intensely territorial too. Like I would growl at you and possibly attempt to rip out your throat if you dared come within 1/2 mile of me. I would do everything alone, including raise my young. It seems bleak to imagine not only having no one to touch, be touched by, talk to, eat with, share the responsibilities of life with, or complain to after a particularly hard day of being a mother...but to also have no desire to have these things in my life. Imagining life not only without Joe, but not even wanting Joe, is about as foreign for me as it can possibly get.
I will never forget the very first time I laid eyes on him, my Joe. I was at a fast and testimony meeting at my meat market, er, singles ward. I was sitting all the way in the back of the chapel and there were probably 200 people between me and the pulpit. I wasn't really paying much attention to what was going on but instead whispering with my best friend and room mate Sara. I'd like to pretend that I was feasting on the spoken word but instead I was no doubt whispering about some boy or another that had recently caught my interest. I was 22, kind of boy crazy, pretty (and I knew it), and on the hunt. I can admit that part about being on the hunt because, well, all of us were in that ward, any of us really at that time in our lives. Anyway, Joe came up to bear his testimony and suddenly, and inexplicably, as I had ignored most of the other testimonies, my attention was upon him.
He spoke about his mother. She had very recently passed away and I could see that she had been a very loving and powerful force in his life. He choked up a few times as he spoke in loving remembrance of this wonderful woman. I was still very much a child and the loss of a mother was one of the very worst things I could ever imagine. It still is actually. I immediately felt pain for him and for some strange reason, I wanted to walk up there, put my arms around him, and console him like I would a crying baby, saying "Shhh, shhh, it's going to be alright". Good thing I didn't, eh? I doubt I'd be sitting here writing about our marriage 10 years later ;).
I was so moved by his love for his mother, and though I didn't realize it at the time, his love for his Heavenly Father that I just had to meet that boy. It didn't hurt that I thought he was cute too. Well low and behold, by some mystical force, he wound up in my apartment just a few days later. It would seem that my room mate and him had been paired together for a church calling. Something about singles meeting, falling in love, and creating marriages. And so we met, officially, and for the first time.
After that, I sought him out every Sunday after church just to say hello. It sounds desperate, but really I was just trying to make an impression so that maybe he would eventually ask me out. I was dating around like a $10 dollar hooker and I really wanted him to ask me out so I'd have the chance to get to know him better. After at least a month of seeking him out each Sunday to say hello, he finally asked me out (and by the way, I just used the words "hooker", "Sunday", and "church" together in two sentences). Only he did it in such an awkward way that I got the impression he was trying to set me up with his buddy on a group date. I was crushed, and politely declined. It was only a few minutes later that I realized he was asking me out, so I went back to him (trying not to run) and said, "I'm so sorry, I thought you were asking me out for your friend. I wanted to go out with you, not your friend, and I would still love to go out with you". By then his fragile male ego had been offended and he replied with, "that's okay, I'll ask someone else". I know, it's like a comedy of errors.
You'd think that was the end of Joe and Ashley. But it wasn't. To my great delight both girls he tried to ask on this date he was planning turned him down and he was seeking me out again 3 days later. Of course I said yes and it literally was the best first date I had ever been on with anyone. We were both in bathing suits on that very first night and now I'm thinking his friend and him purposely planned it that way. I like to think that we were both exposed, literally and figuratively, sitting in that hot tub amongst the others. Later, when it was just us, we talked and talked until we were long past pruny and about to pass out from the heat of the hot tub. After that date, I was smitten. It was only a few more dates before we shared our first kiss and I was sold...hook, line, and sinker. And so two young people fell in love rather quickly, and here we are 10 years later looking forward to an eternity together.
I'd like to say that our journey together so far has been completely without bumps, just smooth sailin'. But it hasn't. We've had arguments, tears have been shed, disappointments have occurred, and many tense moments have come to pass. But that's not our story. Ours is a story of seeing past these many petty moments to a bigger picture, and of realizing that any relationship requires tending. The most beautiful rose bush in the garden needs to be pruned, watered, fertilized, and tended lovingly if it is to grow and stay beautiful. I like to think we are like that rosebush, growing beautifully because we take the time to be sure our souls both individually and together are being fed, watered, and loved.
And so I couldn't be more grateful that I'm not a maned sloth, or a sea cucumber, or any other solitary animal. I couldn't be more grateful that Joe loved his mother so much and felt compelled to bear his testimony of his love for her and Heavenly Father, so that I might notice him in a sea of others. I couldn't be more grateful that I was worthy of him and he of me, and that we were able to enter into the Lord's house and be sealed to each other for all of eternity. Death can part us but for only a little while. And really, motherhood is hard. I'm incredibly thankful that I have someone to share my most sacred calling with...both in the good times and the bad ones.