Billy and Teresa Wilcox have been married since December 1, 1972. As we explored before, those years of marriage have seen them grow up together, grow together, change together, face joys together, face challenges together, face decisions together, and so much more. The key word in all of that is that they have done it together. However, for them, their “together” isn’t just the two of them. For Billy and Teresa, “together” also always includes God. They know He is there guiding them, carrying them, watching out for them. They know He is their constant companion. That knowledge and faith makes them the couple and family they are. It makes them who so many admire.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.
When asked what Bible verse was a favorite, Isaiah 40:31 was the one Teresa mentioned and to which Billy emphatically nodded. As two people who have raised two kids, who have five grandchildren, and who are regularly around children in general, I can imagine many reasons why they would feel drawn to Isaiah’s words of wisdom and rejuvenation and hope.
I met Billy and Teresa when their their children were already grown and gone. However, I’ve seen them with my own children, their grandbabies, and others enough to bear witness to just how wonderful they are with kids.
Still yet, hearing from them how they each viewed one another as parents puts things into a different perspective.
They had been married five years before their first child was born. It was Teresa who told Billy, “Let’s have a baby.” In the same way I couldn’t image Billy being shy, I also can’t imagine Billy not being around kids. However, that’s what it was like. He hadn’t been around babies and children. This wasn’t exactly something that was on his radar. However, Teresa said seeing Billy after they had Eric was something. She said, “He was stepping high.” That is exactly what I imagine. She also added, “He was gonna have a firm hand with his kids and it was melting” with that brand new baby.
Eric was their first, and then they had Jared. I asked what it was like for Billy to see Teresa as a mom, and he simply said, “She loved ‘em and cared for ‘em. She did everything a momma’s s’posed to do and more. So much more.”
Though his words were simple and straightforward, the love and adoration that colored the words was much more complex and deep. It was the same tone with which she spoke of him as a father. She said, “He was never too tired and never too busy. He’d work all day, but if our boys said ‘Dad let’s throw ball,’ he went outside and did.” There’s no way Billy could have been that Dad Teresa so admired or she the mother most expectant mothers only dream of being without allowing themselves to lean on God and be renewed.
Teresa said when she was younger she wanted to marry Billy Wilcox and have five boys who looked just like him. She married Billy. She had Eric. She had Jared. Then, when Jared was three and Eric was already in school, they had Jonathan. One more little boy on the way to the five she wanted. They spent months planning and imagining what their new life with a third baby boy would be like. Then, when Jonathan was born, he had a congenital heart defect. Their family surrounded them in support. The older boys stayed with their parents. Billy and Teresa had hopes that a surgery could help repair little Jonathan’s heart. Sadly, however, instead of rejoicing in a successful surgery, Billy and Teresa had to say goodbye to their newborn boy.
This is a part of their story from which my imagination immediately shies away. “Gut wrenching grief” were the painful words they used to describe that time. Billy said he hadn’t really ever seen Teresa in that way. He thought she’d never get over it. To that, Teresa said, “We just survived for a while.”
It would seem appropriate, given their circumstances, for Billy and Teresa to be angry, to be bewildered, to wonder why. Amazingly, however, Teresa told me, “I never wanted to be bitter toward God.”
In their hopelessness and grief and despair, they still knew they could lean upon and rely on God. They knew that while they will never understand that part of God’s plan in this earthly life, they still have hope. Only a relationship in which the people, Billy and Teresa, had leaned on, hoped on, and waited on God before and been renewed by Him, found hope in Him could say those words and mean them. They said time and God are the only things that helped, that could have helped.
God, in His infinite wisdom, had allowed Teresa to be a stay at home mom. He created the timing between Eric and Jared and Jared and Jonathan that allowed Teresa to be home with only Jared during their time of mourning. Teresa said Jared was only three and too small to really understand what was going on. However, he could sense Teresa’s mood. So, he would climb up in her lap, place his little arms around her, and tell her, “Everything will be alright.”
In those times, Billy and Teresa leaned on each other. They had to. Teresa saw a more tender side to Billy than she had ever seen before. They would lay in bed. Bed. That’s the place she says is the best place in the world, being in bed together. It is their sanctuary. During the time after they lost Jonathan, they would lay there in their sanctuary and hold each other. And they cried. She hadn’t really seen him cry before. Yet, there they lay in bed. They’d bear their souls to one another. In their sanctuary. They’d also lean on God. In God, they would be renewed. In the wake of their grief, they came to learn it was okay to sit back and let God do the heavy lifting. Eventually, Teresa found peace in the understanding that God gave His son so that her son could have peace. Now, she has the hope that she will see her little boy again, and that is strength and peace and hope and everything.
What exactly gets a person to that place? To a place where they can be renewed by God in the midst of soul crushing destruction like that? Billy said it best. He said, “I was a fence guy [at first, but] I decided I was going to be who I was and forget it. Then I had an inner peace and it was better.” To paraphrase the rest of his words, he told me that when you decide to honor what God says, who God says you should be, it’s easier because of your faith. “Once you wake up from who you’ve been, you’re gonna feel better. I felt better because of my faith and church and Teresa. I’m still a knucklehead, but I’m better.”
Teresa added to our conversation such clarity. She said church was always important to her. However, when Billy decided it was important to him, too, things were just better for both of them. Basically, when you both give yourselves over completely to God and be who He wants you to be, good things are bound to happen. If you need confirmation, just look at Billy and Teresa.
Proverbs 24: 3-4
By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
Proverbs tells us that our homes, not just their physical walls, are built on wisdom and prudence, a type of divine discernment we can only acquire through faith and prayer. We establish our home through our understanding of God’s desires for us as individuals within our homes, as a couple, and as a family unit as well as our understanding of one another. Then, gloriously, Divinely imparted knowledge fills our home with lovely treasures. We must understand here that these treasures may not be worldly treasures. They may instead be memories, moments, relationships, and something far more precious, rare, and beautiful than any gem or beautiful artwork meant to adorn our walls or catch the eye of any visitor.
Billy and Teresa’s home now, though Teresa says it’s cluttered, greets you with warmth as you
walk in step on the porch pull in the drive. If ever two people have taken what God has given them to discern right and wrong decisions, understand what God has laid out for them, and turned it into a home full of beauty and warmth, Billy and Teresa have.
There is the curb appeal, obviously, of the wooden exterior, the landscape, the painted sunflowers on the porch, and the faux stained glass window that greets you as you approach. However, when you walk into their home, a sense of warmth and belonging wraps its loving arms around you that has less to do with the cozy fireplace and Primitive decor and more to do with who God has molded Billy and Teresa to be. The “welcome” feeling permeates every inch and crevice of their living room and kitchen. The “clutter” Teresa pointed out is a testament to the “rare and beautiful treasures” that come from her knowledge of what really matters.
An homage to their wedding day hangs upstairs in a shadow box built by Teresa’s father. Her wedding gown with buttons on the sleeves–sewn together by her own mother’s hands–nestles in that box with a photo from their special day displayed prominently inside. Next to it hangs the night gown her great-grandmother wore on her wedding night. Both are precious treasures whose worth will never be measured in rubies or emeralds but whose value far surpasses anything our worldly views can fathom. God has given Teresa that knowledge.
A photo frame with the words “Whatever our souls are made of, yours and mine are the same“ hangs on the wall downstairs. It was a gift from Teresa’s brother and sister-in-law, and it is next to the sign that says simply but magnificently “You and Me.” That’s what they say to each other. Billy will say, “You and Me, “ and Teresa follows it with “and Me and You.” This knowledge of what makes their marriage what it is, the partnership between the two of them, hangs on their wall as a rare and precious visual reminder to them each and every day.
When you walk into their kitchen, you are immersed in a Primitive setting, welcomed by the wood frame and metal front kitchen cabinets. What you don’t know without hearing the story is that Teresa’s father hand punched the holes in that metal using Teresa’s stencils and a nail to create her cabinet doors. It was a suggestion from Teresa’s mom when she simply said they should have Bible verses on them. From that suggestion and a labor of love, a kitchen that says “Good Morning,” “Have some lunch,” “Welcome home,” and “Have some dinner” through Scripture was born.
Hanging on their porch are windows from the house Teresa lived in when she was a girl. The windows are now adorned with their anniversary year and scriptures that show just the type of heart Billy and Teresa have. However, the beauty is not in the writing on these windows. In fact, the beauty lies in the story Teresa told me about them. Early in the mornings, Teresa would look out these windows waiting for Billy to drive by. He would be heading into work, and he would purposefully drive by her house just so she could see him from her windows before she got ready for school. These whitewashed windows hang on their porch now as a little piece of Teresa’s old home. They are a reminder of how sweet their dating lives once were. A little piece of their past before they were united. A little reminder of her view when she realized God had given her, her one. Now, whether waking to get ready to go somewhere or coming back from wherever they’ve been, their windows are one in the same. Their hearts are one. Their souls are one. Their lives are one. How absolutely precious it is to be immersed in this type of beauty when you visit their home. How precious it must be to be immersed in this type of beauty day in and day out.
Having sat and talked with Billy and Teresa, there was so much to take from there story. It was difficult to strike some of what they told me and narrow it down. I had to strike portions that told simply how kind-hearted they are toward one another and everyone else, how they handle disagreements with the kind of grace I hope to one day accomplish, and so much more. Their relationship, because it is lived by two people who individually strive for a closer relationship with Christ and jointly live in a way He commands, is one anyone would be lucky to witness. As Billy says, “It’s all good.”
Billy and Teresa’s Marriage Advice
Listen. Really listen to each other. Don’t be bossy.
Do things together.