When I was 19 (almost 20), I got a job working at Barnes and Noble in the cafe. I was insulted by this because I’d applied to be a bookseller. After declaring my English major, I wanted to help people find Tolstoy and Hemingway in the book aisles, not sling coffee grounds and pump syrup. Nevertheless, I needed a job and I took it. This was a summer of self-discovery. I’d broken up with a boyfriend that was horrible for me, and I needed to spend time on myself, doing the post-breakup dance of “getting reacquainted with my own self”. I wanted to go to the beach with friends, stay up late writing journal entries, and go for long runs along the lakeshore. I didn’t really want to find yet another boy. But, I did.
At 19, Josh was the epitome of someone I wouldn’t date. He wasn’t in school. Gasp! He had long hair. What? He had tattoos. No way! He wore clothes that were ratty and even too small. But every time he came to get soup and a bagel, I had to spend a minute in the back freezer cooling off. This little crush was very inconvenient for my all-too-dramatic, need-to-find-myself phase. We started hanging out after work smoking djarm cigarettes, going to his friends parents’ house (other reasons he might not be the best boyfriend choice), and having coffee dates discussing books, poetry, God, and anything else that kept the conversation going. Josh was sweetly compelling, charming without really knowing it, and sexy without trying. I didn’t take long for me to love him.
He spent the next 2 years visiting me on Hope’s campus, unexpectedly climbing trees to impress me, taking me to sweet spots in Zeeland that–to a Chicago Hope girl–felt like Italy or France. He drove me around in a car that was the ugliest mobile I’d ever seen and sounded like it was going to shoot bullets out the back. He cut his long, curly hair off. He upgraded his car to a friend’s old Corolla. He re-enrolled at Grand Valley. He let me take him shopping and wore American Eagle for the first time. He got a job serving tables, starting out by dropping all of this tables because he was too overwhelmed to becoming the most reliable and steady server at the restaurant. Slowly, but surely, we started to grow up inch by half-inch…and I realized that this summer crush just might turn into the greatest love I could ever imagine.
By the time I graduated college and finished my fifth year in Hope’s education program, we learned that we’d grown up enough for our relationship to handle big changes, but we were naiive and silly enough to take risks, spend all our money, and pursue crazy little dreams. My only job offer for teaching was in Colorado, and Josh had to make the choice: come with me or stay behind. He’d never lived anywhere but West Michigan, but at the time, he wasn’t very appreciative of his Dutch upbringing. He wanted–and yet also resisted–the challenge of new life experiences, new places, new jobs, new people, new geography, new culture. I’d moved across the country my entire life, but this was his first time to take the plunge.
I loved watching Josh mature and grow out West. He transferred to Metropolitan State College of Denver and lived in the big city with a friend of mine. He had gotten yet another car from my aunt and drove to the mountains with me, landed a job at California Pizza Kitchen (again…eventually becoming one of their best servers), and started an internship-turned-job at GoWorld Publications. His interests in travel and writing began to take shape at GoWorld, and he had people around him that truly believed in him and saw huge potential in his writing career. I think he started to see this himself. His haircuts became shorter and more sophisticated, his faith took greater shape when he became my husband, and his talent took flight. Our years in Colorado were so significant because of the discovery and maturity that took place while in the beautiful chaos of engagement and marriage.
Time for Michigan. The decision to move home–which, for me, had also become West Michigan–was undoubtedly the right one. I felt Josh leading the way for the first time, taking my hand and pulling me in his direction. The experiments were over; Josh knew who he was and who he wasn’t much more than I did. He got a job at Group Tour Media as a writer, which was exciting in the sense that jobs were hard to get and he, in fact, got one. This job, though not his greatest aspiration, provided for our growing family. It allowed Josh to pursue challenges like publishing his first book but also required him to take on a second job as Web Editor for The Forgiveness Project. (Both amazing examples of his unstoppable talent). His hard work during these years have been tedious for him, and it has been difficult for me to watch him slug through some days. But, regardless, he has worked hard enough to get him to where he is going….
He just accepted a new writing position at Williams Group, downtown Grand Rapids across from the Van Andel Arena. Josh getting this job doesn’t surprise me because I’ve always known–even with his long hair and ratty clothes–that he is brilliant. But it continues to impress me. My husband is a man who can do anything. Anything. He is a man that knows his limits yet pushes beyond them for the sake of the betterment of his family. He is a man that is noble, honest, sincere, funny, observant, dignified, faithful, responsible. He is a man who makes me more and more proud to be his wife and the mother of his child.
Joshie, you deserve this job. You earned it. You can do it. I believe in you now just like I did at Barnes and Noble as a bookseller. I love you. I always have. I always will. And I could not be more proud of you as a writer, as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a leader, as a lover, and as my brother in Christ. Congratulations, my love. You did it.