Thirteen years ago today I was blessed to marry the love of my life, Crystal.

Crystal and I met in high school. Los Angeles High School. Go Romans! I was a senior. She was in the tenth grade. We met in Coach Williams World History Class. We sat next to each other. And every day, Crystal would ask me if I had my homework (probably, so she could cheat). Most times, I had not done my homework, either. I would have let he cheat if I did!

I thought Crystal was beautiful. How could I not? But I was not interested in me. And I was not interested in her. It was not until we were both out of high school that we began to date. She was visiting my sister at my mother’s house. I came by while she was there. I tried to be smooth. But my sister Donetta fronted me out. She said, “Why are you trying to be cool? You ask about Crystal all the time!” I left.

The next day, Crystal came to church with Donetta. Later that evening, a group of young adults from the church went to the movies. They asked me to go. I told them that I would only go if “cuteness” was going. Another failed attempt to be smooth. She went. So I went. And she let me drive her home after the movie. That’s how it all began.

We dated casually for quite some time. There was no a lot of pressure on either side. And love kind of snuck up on us. At some point, we just got to the place where we had to be with each other all the time.

Crystal’s mom, Charlene, fell in love with me long before Crystal did. When Crystal and I were not talking, she would intervene. She would also let me come see Crystal when I got out of class at night. And she did not get upset when my associate preachers and I would start the most epic water gun fights in front of her building. We miss her a lot.

My proposal was unsmooth and unromantic, even though I tried really hard to surprise her and to make it special. There were circumstances beyond my control. Long story. I am just glad she said yes.

My brother, Kevin Willis, did the opening portion of our wedding ceremony. My Pop, John Reed, preached. And my pastor, Melvin Wade, did the vows.

Our wedding did not start on time. But it was not because the bride or wedding party was not ready. It was because our state president brought the president of the National Baptist Convention to meet me. We couldn’t start until his “official” visit was over. (I will not say who the national president was at the time).

We spent our honeymoon in San Diego, about three hours out of Los Angeles. We chose San Diego for two reasons. I was broke. And I was just coming out of a four-year court battle. And there were papers my lawyer needed me to sign as we reorganized the church. So I couldn’t be too far away when he called me in. Crystal should have run then!

Crystal insisted that she did not want children right away. We needed time together. I argued that we should be ready for children soon. Crystal became pregnant immediately. And she immediately turned maternal. I was in shock. I Still am.

I have become a much more complete person as a result of being married to Crystal. The Lord has used her to teach me how to receive and extend love.

One of the things I love about Crystal is that she is so predictable. I mean that in the best sense of the term. Over the years, I have not had to guess what I was going to have to deal with when I got home. She has an even temperament and stable disposition. Me, not so much.

I am in Jacksonville because of two people. The Lord Jesus Christ. And Crystal. With so many people in my ear about what I should and should not do, Crystal dealt gently with me.

These are just some of the thoughts that have been on my mind about the past thirteen years of marriage to Crystal. As this point, we have known one another for twenty years.

I have been blessed way out of my league to be married to such a wonderful woman. I thank God every day for her. And I pray that the Lord will give us many more blessed years together.