Let me introduce you to our friends, Johnny and DeNise Merritt – The Epitome of the adventurous Austinoverfifty spirit. They’re not from Austin – but they (like a lot of us) got here as soon as they could.
We knew the Merritts in Amarillo, but we’ve rekindled our friendship into full flame now that we are all in Austin. Recently, when we were learning some new things about them that we didn’t already know, I asked DeNise, “When did you and Johnny actually meet?” She said this: “I can’t remember not knowing Johnny.” I love that. They can’t even remember a time when they didn’t know each other. Of course, growing up in a community of less than 5000 people might make it kind of hard not to know everyone.
Johnny’s family farmed in Dimmitt – DeNise’s dad owned a printing company. Life was simple, and life was good. Go to school, play with your friends and siblings, work on the farm, learn to cook and sew and clean, play sports, sing in the choir, go to church every time the doors were cracked open, and plan occasional Saturday excursions to the big cities of Lubbock and Amarillo. They learned invaluable skills in Dimmitt, like manners, how to give a firm handshake and look people in the eye while carrying on a conversation. They learned how to live life with people who weren’t your family, but might as well be. DeNise’s mother still patterns her daily to-do list around whether a bereaved someone needs a casserole. You can’t beat that quality of life with a stick. They could have been happy in that small town cozy cocoon forever.
There was just one catch. Johnny didn’t want to be a farmer when he grew up. He wanted to go to law school and be a lawyer in a firm of more than one. DeNise wanted a little more of the big city life for herself, too, and their future family. So, off they went to Texas Tech, where Johnny completed law school and DeNise became a CPA. They moved from Lubbock to Amarillo, where two beautiful kids were born and life went on… pretty much like it does for most people. Work, school, church, kids’ activities, friends, and, of course, remodeling the house. Life was moving at a slightly faster pace than it had in Dimmitt, but it was still fairly simple. Ahhhh.
Then came a big bump in the road. A rather high hurdle. A true test of faith.
Johnny noticed over a few months’ time that things just weren’t right. He was uncharacteristically angry, moody and sluggish. DeNise had lots going on with the kids and her job and life, and as most wives would, she thought maybe her husband was hitting some kind of weird slump. She dealt with it, but this was not the man she knew, and she secretly wondered if their marriage could withstand this drastic change in behavior. Things got difficult. Really difficult.
And then a trusted doctor suggested to Johnny that his problems could actually be the result of a very serious physical situation, not a mental or emotional slump. He suggested testing, and his hunch was right. There was a tumor resting on Johnny’s pituitary gland.
That was 2014. Since then, God’s intervention and great medicine have brought the Merritts out of that season of difficulty. But here’s the thing. There’s nothing like a big hurdle on the track to make you examine it all. Like, all of it.
Could a fresh start be just what they needed? Would the resurgence of a common goal and a new dream be a boost for their tired marriage? The answer? You bet.
After lots of dreaming and scheming, they hit on a plan. Open a satellite office for Johnny, set up DeNise to work remotely, sell the big house, and move to an efficiency apartment in downtown Austin! Either their friends would think they had gone completely nutty, or be insanely jealous. lol
When you meet Johnny and DeNise, they will tell you that it feels like they are newlyweds again. They are depending on each other and enjoying life as they did when it was just the two of them, and yet even better. Annie, their daughter, is living her dream in the Big Apple. Their son, John David, has big plans of his own after he graduates from Baylor in a few years. So, Johnny and DeNise have lots to talk about when it comes to their family. But they are also challenging one another in new ways, like growing in their faith. They pray together more. They discuss the messages they hear at church on Sunday. They love to hike and bike. And the restaurants! Johnny says people are always asking him what is his favorite Austin eatery. His response? “The last place I ate.”
Every day is new, different, exciting and challenging. The Merritts love their new Austinoverfifty adventurous life. What’s the best part? They’re doing it together. After all, they really can’t remember a time when they haven’t been doing just that.
Encouraging intentional adventure like theirs,