My Dearest Friend,
I suppose reading as a six-year-old the love story between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Manly helped.
Feeling it from a place deeper than my bones,
this knowing that a real man works the land, wrestles the wolves,
and weathers the wind that bends mere males, but never a man.
A real man bends, not by burdens, but to bless the name of the One who called him to manhood.
He chose his servant David,
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from tending the nursing ewes he brought him
to be the shepherd of this people Jacob,
of Israel, his inheritance.
I have been with you almost from the beginning. From the days of small pens and little land, through the years of rocky soil, and then great expanses of prairie and miles of open sky. Two and plus decades, and I have never heard you complain. If there is work to be done, you work. And the beauty of your strong character, all-grown-up these years stacked on years together, is you work with joy. Not always because of the work, but because of the calling to do it. You work the land well, Dearest Friend.
I have watched you wrestle the wolves, some many times your size, because you were given the gift of loving others. And loving others always meant sacrificing yourself, at least a little, that they might live ~ a lot. Thank you, Dearest Friend, for being a husband I am always safe with, a man whose strength we all lean into, and a leader who is courageous enough to stand up for even the “least of these.”
Squadron Commander. I know you dreamed of this job from the very first days of tending sheep. And I know there will be many more jobs to follow. Jobs that will challenge your strength, enlarge your vision, cultivate your gentleness, and grow your smile.
But these last two years ~ well, He chose you and brought you to be a shepherd to these people. You have tended them with an upright heart and guided them with a skillful hand. Others may know better the details of the wolves and wind you stood against, but only I know how deep is the love that sustained it all. And it is deeper than your bones.
Well done, Dearest Friend. I am so proud of you and so grateful to be your wife. The land is well worked, the fruit hangs in abundance, and once more we bend the knee and bless the name of the One who has called us. I look back through the years at the ways He has equipped us for each new land. I look forward to the next place we will settle with anticipation and great longing for worship and community. And I look beside me always, for the man who loves God first, the father who models mercy and justice, the leader who serves others before self, and my Manly, who holds my heart in his hands.