|Pete's wedding band|
Sometimes, when signing an email or sending each other a letter (yes, in this day and age, we still write a hand-written note from time to time...), we'll close with "A&F Yours."
The AF, you may have guessed, stands for "always & forever." It's a reminder that our love for each other - and our marriage - is there at all times (always) and for all time (forever). Always and forever. Commitment.
We felt drawn to "AF" during our courtship as young twenty somethings, and skeptics might say that we were young and idealistic. But we believe in it as much or more so today - in our early 30s, and after more than 7 years of marriage - as we did back then.
That's not to say that everything is always roses and sunshine. We've had our share of challenges, of stressors, of tensions. Every relationship goes through that. We've also, however, had our share of joys, of contentment, of successes. In the grand balance of life, we feel blessed to have our scale tipped favorably in the direction of roses and sunshine, and that includes our gluten-free lifestyle.
"Always and forever" is much more than just a passive statement of our belief about the nature of our relationship. It's a profession of commitment. That we'll be together and support one another through thick and thin; for the good and the bad; in sickness and in health; for the long haul. It's an assurance that one or the other of us won't fade to the background when times get tough, only to "return" when things are happy again. And it's an assurance that one won't abandon the other at some point in the indefinite future. We're in this for life, and "always and forever" is a continual, intentional, active process.
It's a valuable metaphor - and a useful reminder - for the gluten-free lifestyle. Most of us are gluten-free for medical reasons, whether for celiac disease, gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, whatever. We don't get to choose when we want to be on a gluten-free diet, and when we want to be off it. We're gluten-free for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We're gluten-free for life. We're gluten-free at all times and for all time. We're gluten-free always and forever.
There might be (indeed, there likely will be) bumps in the road. Occasional missteps and challenges. A gluten episode here. A failed recipe there. A difficult experience dining out.
But there will also be dramatic highs and wonderful moments. The support of family and friends. Connecting with others in the gluten-free community. Successfully making a gluten-free version of a long-cherished gluten recipe. Finding that favorite restaurant that does things right.
Being gluten-free always and forever is one part passive - it is what it is. But it's also a continual, intentional, active process... reading (and re-reading for the hundredth time) ingredients labels; asking a server at a restaurant the same questions you've asked servers a million times; remaining diligent for the sake of your own health. Each morning, we wake up and say to ourselves (metaphorically, of course), "Today I'm going to be gluten-free. Again."
Like marriage (or any genuine relationship in which you're invested), gluten-free is a journey. One that lasts always and forever. Stay committed to it, and please, remember the most important part... No matter what happens along the way, enjoy it.