Those Two

Twenty years ago today, at 4 pm, The Judge and me walked down the long aisle at Highland Park Methodist and said our wedding vows. As I knew would eventually be the case, I can’t consciously recall much about that day now, and so I’m mighty pleased to have the pictures.

The first thing that strikes me is how much of our lives now was completely unknown to us, then. Things we have come to cherish, more than anything in the world, were yet to be revealed.

I mean, there’s the big and obvious one: there was not yet a “Divine Miss M.” She’d come along four years later.

But, Dennise wasn’t a judge yet either. In fact, she hadn’t even started working full-time. There was no sense that I’d ever be pastor of Northaven, or play my own music live.

Looking back, it’s amazing just how uncertain any of it was. I mean, not only was Dennise not a respected ten-year jurist, but what she did have was a stack of rejection letters –hundreds high– from law firms that didn’t hire her. (Including some, I am sure, who would be horrified to realize this now…) The idea that she could be elected judge, and would now be looking at ten years on the bench would have stunned us that day.

I was an associate minister at Highland Park UMC, just a year away from being ordained an “elder.” I was doing college and singles ministry. As of yet, I’d never been to Russia (I would eventually go nine times), Haiti (five), Nepal, or any of the other cool places I later got to go. I’d never yet helped build any of the thirteen Habitat Houses we’d build, or preach every Sunday at Cox Chapel.

I could not have fathomed the idea of being the senior pastor at Northaven, and certainly could not have imagined now having been there a decade. Which means I probably would have laughed at you if you told me we’d build a brand new $5.2 million dollar campus there, and see hundreds of new member join.

I’d just started writing songs again. I’d still be a year or two more before I’d start playing out at open mics at places like Poor David’s Pub, with friends like Annie Benjamin. It’d be eight years more before I’d put out a CD of my own songs. And it’d be almost thirteen more before that crazy band, Connections, would be formed.

Maria would be born in 1997. I could not have imagined her on that May-day in 1993. I mean, the most important person in my life, besides Dennise, wasn’t even an idea that day. Since I can now not fathom life without her, it’s hard to truly think back to that time before there was no “her.”

We’d move into a small house on Groveland Street in “Little Forest Hills” that week, the first of several East Dallas houses we fell in love with.

All we were on that day were two very young people, with little money, and not the vaguest of inklings that the life we have now would be ours.

And as for me? I was terrified. The “unknown” of this future terrified me…where we’d go…how we’d live…what we’d be like as parents, if we were lucky enough to have a kid.

As I’ve noted before, that first year was crazy. Dennise was insistent that we get married right after she finished law school. Reluctantly, I agreed. It was the timing that got me. I mean, in the span of two weeks we did four things:
— She finished law school
— We moved all our stuff into a house in East Dallas
— We got married
— She started a new job and started studying for the bar.

Therapists tell you these are four of the top five stressors in life. The only one missing is somebody dying. That first year was a blur. It evened out after that.

I don’t want to rose-color it, though. There have been difficult times too. Times that are, frankly, none of your business. There were times of depression and despair that stressed us, pulled us in directions we didn’t want to go, and sometimes caused us to question the future.

But, here we are, twenty-years-on. And it’s absolutely amazing to look back.

This song I’ve posted here, “Those Two” is one I wrote for Dennise about two-years-ago, looking forward to this day. It’s a much briefer way of describing all the changes I’ve just now mentioned. (lyrics below)

It could be easy to pretend  twenty years gives you some kind of special, brilliant knowledge as to what makes a marriage last. Frankly, I haven’t a clue, really. I really mean that. Part of my hesitance at pretending to have brilliant knowledge comes from looking around me in any direction. I mean, I can point to dozens of friends who I thought had strong marriages that didn’t make it this far. Why did we?

The only thing I can point to is something like the following…

First, we’re still “those two” deep in the core of our souls. Just like the song says. But, we’ve also been willing to grow and change, too. No matter how much it terrified us, we’ve been willing to jump into whatever the “next step” has been, even when there was little evidence where we’d land.

But what is clear to me now is that marriage isn’t just one leap on your wedding day. It’s  series of leaps into a future that is ALWAYS unknown, unrevealed, and uncertain. Every stage, every fork in the road, was chock-full of uncertainty, doubt, fear, and anxiety.

But we’ve jumped, anyway. And taking the risks have always seemed to be worth it. Of course, a whompin’ load of those jumps have turned out great. We’ve been very fortunate have many a “soft” landing, where as we’ve seen many friends not get the same breaks. So, it seems to me, there’s a fair bit of luck involved too. Luck, grace, a bit of planning, a whole lot of not only learning how to grow together, but also learning how to live apart too.

It’s learning to ignore, frankly, many of the things that bug the hell out of you about your partner. And maybe also realizing that those things that bug you are, often, lessons you need to somehow learn yourself.

Let me tell you this about Dennise. First, I love her with all my heart. You’d expect me to say that, right?

But I’m also a bit amazed and in awe of her. I’m amazed at the grand plans she set out for her life (and our’s) and how many of those dreams have come true. I’m amazed at how she can pushed through her fears, push down her doubts, and step into her “next steps” as a wife, mother, judge.

What an amazing ride it’s been.

Please, God, give us many many more….many more days…years….and many more fearless leaps.

Those Two
You fell in love
with a guy in jeans and boots
who never wore a suit
and played guitar all night long

I fell in love
with a girl of revolution
pushing back the institution
in places it was wrong

Where’d they go,
those two?
I believe they’re still inside
me and you.

You fell in love
with a guy, chronically late
who forgot important dates
but who could always make you smile.

I fell in love
with the girl who had a plan
for every second in her hand
and survived every trial.

Where’d they go,
those two?
I believe they’re still inside
me and you.

Things we found attracting
Grow frustrating and distracting
Each year, these scenes we’re acting
Keep repeating, time again.

And so, the greater mystery
Is how, with all this history
We can yet persist to be
Lovers and friends.

I’m still in love
with that quiet girl who knows me
doesn’t say, but simply shows me
all the safety of a home.

Your’e still in love
with that guy who sees the world
as a place to show that girl
with fields still yet to roam.

Where’d they go,
those two?
I believe they’re still inside
me and you.

Every day, they’re still inside
me and you.

Words and Music by Eric Folkerth.
All Rights Reserved.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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