I stood in the back of the auditorium admittedly mesmerized.  Our key speaker that morning was a long time coming, and she was killing it.  Her topic of encouragement was more than fitting, as she’s mastered the art in her own, deliberate fashion over time. I’ve known my wife Jessi for over twenty one years, and to call this a proud moment would be a significant understatement. 

Our pastor had been asking her to speak at church for years, and although she is a ringleader to children, public speaking isn’t exactly her comfort zone.  Granted, if the public has a median age of say seven, she’s brilliant.  Although she was reluctant to do so, she ultimately obliged, and our congregation was better for it.

Jess ultimately  made the decision to speak all on her own, but the one message I repeatedly drove home was the reason Pastor Kurt wanted her to speak in the first place:  she’s an unsung hero.  As a founding member of our flourishing church, she helped build our children’s program, faithfully showing up week after week.  As I simultaneously helped build the youth program, she also opened our home to countless teenagers from the neighborhood over the years. 

Jess has never been one to draw attention to herself, which is evident from her everyday demeanor to her social media profiles (she refuses to take selfies: “I don’t get them,” she says).  Her humility is ironic, mind you, as she considers herself the farthest thing from fancy but she’s impossibly beautiful (don’t hate).  That Sunday morning I anticipated perhaps seeing her in a new light, but her sermon’s conclusion wasn’t an eye-opening moment for me because if there’s anyone on the planet who’s been on the receiving end of Jessica’s encouragement, it’s me.  There was no epiphany: I’ve always known this about her.  But I was indeed beaming.

Jess is the voice of reason in our household.  She has an uncanny ability to plan several steps ahead, make predictions, and pivot accordingly.  This is why our finances stay in order and also why she’s so sneaky good at board games and dominos.  I, on the other hand, am somewhat of a loose cannon.  This past week she has been away in Puerto Rico to attend services for her late grandmother, but I was able to hold down the fort only due to her preparation.  The task list she left me was impeccable.  She probably should have left a second list reminding me to read the first list.  She even planned one dinner for us over the phone by memory of what was available in our cupboard and refrigerator (“boom, dinner” was the conclusion to her text thread).  She accomplished all of this without questioning my capabilities; she was simply setting me up for success, which is what she’s always done.  She doesn’t tolerate my tendency to be self-deprecating, either.  She’s just ride or die in the purest sense.  If there’s one thing we all know it’s that Jess got our back.

Jessica is always the first to realize someone may need to be checked on-she just has a sense about these things because she pays acute attention to detail and then acts accordingly.  Although she may not have realized it when she chose her sermon topic, it was beyond fitting because she remains this way in the calm and in the storm.  And we’ve had some storms.  Like I said, I’m a very spontaneous husband who often puts the cart before the horse.  My seasons of various careers have required weeks of travel, adjacency to trauma, and late, dangerous nights. Regardless, she stood steady and never once discouraged my ambition.  She’s always seen my heart and embraced her role in ensuring I have a solid foundation at home.  In triumph, we celebrate together.  If I have to lick wounds, she always keeps the good vibes coming.  If I need defending, she throws the first figurative punch (and I’m quite certain she’d throw a literal one need be.  You can take the girl out of Jersey, am I right?)

Her judgement of character and fierce loyalty are second-to-none and I’m still learning to shut up and only hope some of that wisdom rubs off.  Bottom line, she extracts the best from people, and I’m fortunate enough to have a front row seat to God’s purposes for her.

Like I said, Jess, you’re a hero.