Today is me and Crystal’s tenth wedding anniversary!!!

We met at Los Angeles High School in 1991. I was a senior. Crystal was in the tenth grade. We were both in Coach Williams’ World History Class. Coach Williams, one of the football coaches, had a reputation for having the easiest class. He didn’t let us down. Crystal and I would occasionally talk in class. She would ask me if I did my homework. I would answer no. That was it.

Crystal was in the same grade as my little sister, Donetta. And I would regularly ask Donetta about her. Some time after they graduated, I went by my mother’s and Crystal was sitting there! Donetta was doing her hair. I flirted. It was pitiful. The next day, Crystal came to church with Donetta. I preached an afternoon service that day. And after service, a bunch of the young adults wanted to go to the movies. I said I was only going if Crystal was going (another pitiful attempt at flirting). We became friends after that.

I kept waiting to ask Crystal to marry me, wanting things to get better at the church first. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer. I asked Crystal to marry me. And I warned her that I might not have a job in a few months. She said yes anyway. Lord help! Ironically, after we got engaged, things immediately started getting better at the church.

I am not good at surprises – either giving or receiving them. But the selection of a ring for Crystal was maybe the best (translated, “only”) real surprise I have ever prepared for Crystal. I went broke getting that ring. It was not some that expensive. But I was just broke!

Crystal’s mom fell in love with me way before Crystal did. When Crystal and I weren’t talking, Charlene would intervene. Her death was one of the most challenging times of our marriage. But God used that period to draw us closer to the Lord and to one another. But we still miss mom so much.

When Crystal’s dad came to town for our wedding, I went to meet him for the first time. He fussed at me for not asking his permission before asking to marry his daughter. I did not say a word. To him. After that night, he was dad to me. We prayed for years for his salvation. And God answered our prayers. Big time. Dad even joined the choir in his home church. He took ill while visiting us again for the first time several years ago. He passed several days after our anniversary. It was extremely difficult for us, as it was the first death that directly touched Trey and Natalie. But God was faithful.

We were married on December 12. Crystal’s birthday is December 18. And, of course, Christmas is December 25. (Translation, “I am typically broke every December!”).

Our wedding started late, because the state president and national president of our denomination showed up and spent some time chatting with me and the guys downstairs before the ceremony began.

My brother – Kevin Willis, my adopted dad – John Reed, and my pastor – Melvin Wade performed our wedding ceremony together. All three men also preached at my installation services at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

My pastor sung our “song” at our wedding: “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind.”

Our church had just come out of a long and difficult court case when Crystal and I were married. And because there were still matters to close out, we couldn’t go too far away for our honeymoon. We “settled” for going to San Diego. And it ended up being the greatest week. We really fell in love with San Diego. And whenever we could get a few days away, Crystal and I would drive down and hang out.

I was preaching in Detroit when Crystal called me to tell me she was pregnant with our first child. And I just sat down from preaching in Atlanta when I got the news that Crystal had just given birth to our son. He was almost seven weeks early. And he only weighed 3 pounds and 4 ounces. But it was so amazing to watch how maternal Crystal became and how wonderfully she cared for our son.

Crystal took ill when Natalie was born several years later, but I will always remember how strong she was through the whole ordeal. I continue to praise God for how he brought Crystal and Natalie through that difficult period.

The first half of our marriage, we ate out all the time, because we (translation, “Crystal”) did not know how to cook. We will never forget that burnt but bleeding fried chicken that Crystal cooked up and tried to convince me was okay to eat. And I will definitely not forget “the steak of death.” It was one of the first steaks I had ever had. And I did not eat another one for another seven years.

Crystal is the only person in the world that calls me “Junior.”

Crystal is absolutely predictable. And this has been on the keys to our marriage. She has an even temperament. And I have not had to come home from day to day wondering what kind of attitude I would be walking into. I am a lot more up and down (translation, “moody”). My highs are high. And lows are low. But it has been such a blessing over the years to have a mate that has been so steady, calm, and positive. She has taught me a  lot.

God has used Crystal to really teach the meaning of unconditional love. No one in this world knows me better than Crystal. And yet she loves me anyway. And her love for me has really been a means of grace that has aided my spiritual development and walk with God.

John MacArthur was once asked what are the things that can ruin a man’s ministry. He named four things: (1) immorality, (2) ministerial sloth, (3) an uncooperative team of leaders, and (4) an non-supportive wife. Praise God this latter matter has not been my testimony. The Lord has blessed me with a wife who has greater expectations of me than I have of myself. And her constant encourage has refreshed my faith more times than I can name.

This year has been the most remarkable year in our marriage. No, in both of our lives. We entered 2008 with MSMBC purchasing new property and our congregation preparing to relocate. Several months into the year, Hailey was born. And by the summer, we were in the middle of an unexpected candidacy at SMBC. By the fall, we had packed up all of our belongings, left our family, friends, and home congregation, and moved to the other side of the country where we did not really know anyone. Without a doubt, these past several months have been exciting, painful, and just plain weird for us. But God has been good to us as a family. And God has been especially good to me in blessing me to share the graces of life with Crystal.

Can a man be more blessed?

Happy anniversary Sunshine!!!