I still remember the first time I heard my now wife's name, "Maria Hanna," mentioned in conversation.

I had no idea how she would live up to her name.

Hannah, after all, was a weeping, trusting woman, who longed for the blessing of children…and who longed to see her children bless the Lord. Her faith brought about the prophetic voice (Samuel) through whom God would give us the house of David, the line of our Lord Jesus.

And "Maria," of course, is the most renowned woman's name in history, the name of our Christ's mother. And I see much of the quiet, fearsome beauty the Lord praised in her also in the face of my bride.

Today is Maria, my Maria's, birthday. I can't help but think today about the first time I ever saw her. My cousins wanted me to meet her and so they took me to the local mall for a kind of fashion show put on by the local department store. Maria and my cousin, both seniors in high school and both of whom worked at the store, were modeling some of the clothes that winter for the store's spring line.

I really liked her, but I wasn't sure. After all, Maria was a high school girl and, though I was only three years older, I was in college, and in the middle of a frenetic job with a congressional campaign. I was too old for her. But, still, for weeks after that show, I'd find myself walking into that department store and looking at her picture, with those of the other employee/scholarship recipients, hanging on the wall. I'd look at that picture and wonder what she was like.

Sixteen years, fourteen wedding anniversaries, and four children later, now I know.

Even after I agreed to let my cousin introduce us, I almost stopped it. On our first date, I almost turned around in her driveway when I saw the "Bush/Quayle ‘92″ sign in the yard. I was campaigning all over south Mississippi for a Democratic congressman, and I was going out with a Republican?

More than that, I worried she was "too quiet," as I explained it to my cousin, too gentle, for the rough world of politics where I planned to live my life and career. I had illusions that I was going to be governor of Mississippi one day, and I needed a wife who had the "fire in the belly" to speak on the campaign stump, pressure donors into giving more, and attack back at political opponents. I needed a partner who was a Mississippi version of (at least the 1990s version of) Hillary Rodham Clinton, I guess I was thinking.

Maria didn't seem to pursue me back, and that bothered me. Even though she knew from my cousins what was going on in their deliberations, she didn't call. She didn't drop hints. She didn't flirt. She didn't loudly fight for attention. She didn't seem like she was anxiously waiting for me to pursue her. She just seemed quiet.

I didn't like that.

But I couldn't help but love her. I thought I would just toughen her up one campaign at a time. I might have been tempted to turn the car around on that first date night, but as we drove down the beach on the way to the restaurant I knew I would marry her, if she'd have me.

Things didn't turn out the way I planned my life then. The Lord pulled me out of politics and rekindled a call to ministry. We've lived together through some unbelievably happy (and one miserable) ministry experiences. We were together through infertility, miscarriages, adoptions, births, and a lot more.

We're not a "power couple." That's because I don't know how to get anywhere close to the power she has.

Hannah's power in Scripture is not in horses or chariots or in plans or in schemes. Her strength, she sings, "is exalted in the Lord" as her heart "exults in the Lord" (1 Sam. 2:1).

Our Lord's mother first shows up in the story of Scripture as a picture of submission, "Let it be according to your word." Mary doesn't summon the angel to her well in Nazareth. She doesn't, like Saul, "kick against the goads." She, with almost preternatural calm, believes what Eve (and Eve's mate) didn't believe before: that God's will is for her good. And when Mary cries out against injustice and evil, she sings. She sings, in fact, a song that echoes the song of Hannah long before (compare 1 Sam. 2:1-10 with Lk. 1:46-55).