Psalm 123:1 “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!”

Imagine it’s a Friday afternoon, you just got off work and you’re making a b-line for those plans you’ve been looking forward to all week. You click on the radio and your favorite song is just starting, so naturally you turn it up, roll down the window (assume it is fall if you’re in Georgia), stick your hand out, and cruise down the highway making waves in the air as it weaves up and down over your fingers. Pause there in your mind. It’s bliss. Beside the inevitable Friday traffic, all seems right with the world. Have you had moments or seasons of life like that? Where things are going good, I mean really really good, so much so that you pause and look to heaven to say, “Why me?” or “God, I don’t deserve this…but I accept!” Those moments are meant to be celebrated, and I think they teach us something about our God and his economy.

JM and I looked to heaven a lot together over the years of our relationship. Sometimes in confusion and sometimes in praise, but (mostly) always in awe that we had a God who gave us such good gifts. From the time I met him at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters camp, l remember looking to heaven and saying, “God why am I so attracted to this weirdo guy?” and he looking up with a  completely different response, “This girl is smoking hot, God, and there is no way I am on her level.” (His words, not mine). We spent that summer sneakily flirting, dropping humble brags about how we were killing it with our campers, and shouting Ephesians 4:29 at each other from all over camp, because I guess that’s how Christians flirt… I still laugh when I think about JM looking to heaven and begging God not to let me friend zone him because of the many nights I spent putting make-up on him for a dumb British Rock Star character that he insisted on playing every Thursday night at rodeo. And thankfully enough for him, he found out that God was enthroned and in the details because I didn’t even know what the friend zone was.

Almost exactly one year later, we went on our first date. I am sure we both spent many nights leading up to this date looking up to heaven for guidance as we got to know each other from long distance phone calls and texts. When the night came, we literally looked to heaven for the first time together as the small red and yellow biplane left the runway, headed for the sky. As we held hands for the first time watching the summer sun melt into the trees behind Kennesaw Mountain, we were both reassured that God was indeed the author of more than our story, but the great story that all creation was telling. Thankful we got to participate in that is an understatement.

I remember one night in particular, September 9, 2012. I was terrified as JM asked me to take the adventure with him in becoming his girlfriend. I rattled off my list of excuses as to why I wouldn’t make a good girlfriend, and he wasn’t even phased by one of them. He had spent countless hours that summer knocking on heaven’s door to receive guidance from a God that gives to those who ask. Again that night JM lead my eyes to heaven, and although we realized that it was risky business to trust in a God who is a sovereign mystery, JM reminded me that it was the best place we could be. So I said yes, yes to a journey that terrified me in all the right ways.  We had no idea the path that lay before us, but hoped in a King who promised to lead his people.

Oh, and the night he proposed, a night that was so close to perfection, I still wonder if it was reality. There were so many moments between September 9, 2012 and that crisp November day that made me fall deeply in love with him and the God we were following. How fitting that for our final date as boyfriend and girlfriend JM would again lead us skyward. The helicopter blades whipped through Atlanta’s night sky as I sat next to him asking God how in the world I got this guy to like me. Little did I know that JM, sporting the hottest outfit I have ever seen by the way, was looking at more than the beautiful skyscrapers towering into the blackness above but looking to his God to calm his nerves, for in moments he would be bending his knee and asking the girl next to him to spend forever by his side. About 30 minutes later, I had a ring on my finger and we both looked to heaven rejoicing in the fact that we got the gift of each other.

Or how about the time we looked to heaven because we had both finished college and were about to get married! We were broke, in desperate need of jobs and money, and so many other things, but boy were we content with the love that we had and the life we were making with God. We turned to God like needy kids and hoped that like all the others times along our journey that he would provide. What do you know, he did!

Then this day came, July 13, 2014, the day JM and I said I do and vowed before God to love and serve each other until death do us part. We had no idea the commitment that we were actually making, and honestly, it’s probably best that we didn’t! On this day and in this momenritcheywedding20140713_1665.jpgt in particular I remember looking to heaven with him. We had just finished our vows, placed the rings on each other’s fingers, and were singing In Christ Alone, only the kiss was left to seal the deal. In those last moments we gazed skyward. My eyes were closed and JM’s were staring up at God, both of us praying a very similar prayer, “Christ, be our light and our song on days when loving comes easy and be our solid ground when the fiercest droughts and storms come rolling in.” Gosh, I can see it so clearly in our faces, his blissful glance and my sweet contentment as we accepted the greatest gift God had ever given us. We didn’t know what joys and what sorrows lay ahead on our path, but we knew that God was commanding our destiny, from marriage’s first kiss to final breath.

The very next day the hard work began. Marriage was fun, but it wasn’t easy, we would be the first to admit that! We looked to heaven several times a day and sometimes several times an hour asking God how to love each other better. We were selfish and clueless, but at the end of the day no matter how it had unfolded, we would look to God together before our heads sunk deep into our pillows. Even though our eyes were closed, and mine sometimes half asleep, our hearts were pointed towards the throne. We needed sanctification and grace and mercy. God came through, every time.

Today as I stare unendingly at the heavens where not only my God lives, but my JM, too, I cannot help but think back on all those “Friday post-work drive” moments I got to have with JM. There may have been traffic, but the song was just right and the wind was so fun to play in, that it didn’t matter how long it would take us to get to where we were going. That’s what I am declaring over my life today and what I pray you declare over yours. The idea is this: that we would lift our eyes to a God who gives us these beautiful, bliss filled moments to give us a small taste of what heaven will be like. There will be stops, bumps, and maybe a few tickets along your crazy ride, but rejoice in that fact that no matter how long it takes you to get to that final destination, you will indeed get there, and it will be more awesome than any weekend plan you have ever dreamed up!

Happy two year anniversary, my dearest friend. I love our story even on hard days like today. Soon we will be together again, but this time we will be face to face with the God who is so rightfully enthroned in the heavens.

Tell a good story,

Alex Ritchey

Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

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9 thoughts on “From Marriage’s First Kiss to Final Breath

  1. Loved your story! I lost my husband of 26 years a few years ago and we looked to God often to get comfort and guidance. Be happy and enjoy each other all the days of your lives!

  2. What a treasure you are, Alex! So wise beyond your years…So much to share with a lost world. If only more of us lived a life SO close to God on a daily basis… Press on sweet girl! God is using you in a big way… Love you! 😘

  3. This was amazing. And amazingly written. I am so sorry for your loss Alex. I knew JM from high school (I assisted in his video class as a volunteer/sub), and let me tell you – he made QUITE an impact on me! I attended his celebration of life last fall and was ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY by the impact he had in such a SHORT time! I’m praying God’s peace and comfort over you. I know it must be difficult. I think about JM often. He was super hilarious and always so sweet. He made up a nickname for me since he couldn’t remember how my name was said – Mrs. Liggity 😉 I’ll always remember that! I also made him eat an old grape off the floor in class on a dare once (true story) ..that’s what I loved about him! Full of life, love & Jesus!! SOO full of Jesus! I will be praying for you. I’m so glad you got to spend the time you had with him! God is so good!

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