On this day a little over twelve years ago, we were blissfully in love. And totally, utterly clueless. Ignorance really is bliss. It was hands down the greatest day of our lives. That day, we didn't see each other before the wedding, and I still remember seeing Paul gasp when the french doors to the sanctuary opened. He got down on one knee as I was walking down the aisle toward him. My Grandfather married us, and he still tells that story every time he introduces us to his friends at the nursing home. We were young and in love and the world was our oyster. Then the honeymoon was over and reality hit.
I was (and am) a fly by the seat of my pants, scatter-brained, messy, extreme extrovert who could not handle downtime. He was (and is) an organized, man of few words, Type A introvert who thoroughly enjoyed people but also needed quiet downtime. While this match has benefited our marriage beautifully and is clearly designed by God, it was a shock to discover just how polar opposite we really are. (And we even dated for two years and were friends for three years before that! We were clueless!)
For a long time in those early years I felt alone, not knowing who to talk to about the fact that in my marriage, we fought. We lost our tempers and said things that hurt each other. What was wrong with us?? Making a home together was so difficult for us that we know there's zero chance we'd ever gotten married had we lived together first...we thank and praise God that we didn't and that we are. At that time in my life, I only had two other girlfriends that ever talked openly about fighting with their husbands...so I called those two friends a lot in our first five years.
So...this "love your spouse" blog is dedicated to any newly (or not so newly) married couples who also feel blindsided by the realness of marriage...those of you who are wondering if happily ever after actually happens. And PS - it does. Today as I looked over our 12 years of marriage while choosing pictures for this blog, I was overwhelmed and swept away by the tsunami of grace that has covered our marriage. We have come so far. We still have rough patches of course, and we have far to go, but oh my, we've come far. It's been more work than I ever imagined it would be, a ton of blood, sweat, tears, and lots of prayer.
Seriously...doesn't this pic look darling? Mustn't we be gleefully happy here on the Oregon coast? Umm...NO. This picture does NOT tell a thousand words. This pic was taken during one of the few times on this trip when we were actually getting along. We don't even look at these pictures...ever...because it's downright painful. After being married for three months, still having no clue how to actually live together, much less problem-solve together or constructively argue with one another, we decided (Okay, I decided...impulsively) to road trip across the country to the Redwood Forest in California with no reservations (except one campground) during August, when every family in America is on vacation, . We were gone for about two weeks, and it was terrible. Terrible, I tell you. Why we didn't turn the car around, I have no idea. (I actually tried to convince him to in Missoula, after we'd fought the whole way across Montana. He refused and we kept fighting. The whole trip.)
Oh for sweet! A newly married husband and wife after decorating their first Christmas tree together in their first house! That is so precious! I bet it was full of Christmas cheer and kissing under the mistletoe!!! NOPE. Apparently we didn't even decorate a Christmas tree the same way (because we did nothing the same way), and we somehow managed to bicker the entire time we decorated our first tree. By the end, I was in tears because it was just not supposed to go that way! What is wrong with us!!??
But this pic was actually after we re-decorated. The day after our first crappy attempt, I came home to see the tree un-decorated. My husband wanted us to take a mulligan, and do it together happily. I cried again...the happy kind.
Our first baby. Ahhh. Of course we were head over heels in love. We were also scared out of our minds. Also, my husband, who is by nature inclined to fix everything, bless his heart, could not fix the fact that breast-feeding did not work for me...which caused his stress (and mine) to skyrocket. Between being a breast-feeding failure, post-partum hormones, post-surgical hormones (c-section), and trying to figure out how to be both husband and wife and also co-parents, the first six weeks of this girl's life were the most overwhelming six weeks either of us had ever encountered (until the next baby came along!). Oh - there were thousands of sweet moments and we have the pics and video to prove it. But oh my. It was hard. We even went to a few sessions of counseling with our pastor, which helped a ton. He assured us that our struggles were normal and manageable. It wasn't an instant fix, but it was so helpful. We totally encourage counseling! A tsunami of grace pulled us through, and we actually had more kids! Praise the Lord.
Of course there's so much more. More babies, more camping trips, more joy, more struggles, more setbacks, more dreams coming true, more minivans, more laughter, more disagreements, more tears. We've walked through the valley of the shadow of death and we've celebrated the miracle of birth. We have so far to go, but, oh my, we've come so far. This past Christmas after decorating our tree (which of course is now total chaos with four kids and like a million ornaments) after putting the kids to bed and sitting down in the dark to look at the glowing tree, I started crying...thinking about that first tree twelve Christmases ago. Our tsunami of grace has brought us so far. (So, to effectively kill the romance of that glowing moment by the tree, I made us take a selfie, obviously.)
And that is why this kiss on the beach this summer is so much more than just a kiss. Because we've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this kiss. We have grown up together, becoming more like Jesus together...which is what marriage is all about anyway. We know a love now that we were clueless about 12 years ago. We're so excited for what our love will be like in another 12 years, and 20, 30, 40. But a tsunami of grace has brought us this far, and God assures us that his grace is never going to stop.
And friend, this tsunami of grace covers you too. If your marriage is hard, it's okay. If you think you need to see a counselor, good. We think everyone should. If you think something's wrong with you because you fight...it's okay. We all do. If you think you fight too much...ask a counselor. At a minimum, a counselor would tell you if your marriage is normal or needs additional help. Or find a friend who can be painfully honest and ask him/her. But do this: pray together every night, repent and forgive each other, go on dates or make them happen at home, hold on for dear life, and love your spouse richly, because love covers a multitude of sins.