Marriage & Family
The Fairy Tale Beginning
Today feels strangely significant. A silent “anniversary” of sorts.
I was 19 years old.
And I met him 19 years ago today.
Today signifies knowing him longer than I havent known him.
Today I have spent more of my life with him than apart from him.
Today Im struck by the fact that, this is not the man I fell in love with….
The guy I met the first day of bible college, strode up to me with unabashed confidence and and a firm handshake and an engaging, extroverted personality. He was tall, handsome, charming, and for heaven sake, we met in a castle in England! I found myself caught off guard by how quickly my strong resolves began to unravel and my heart began to flutter. The day after our meeting in the entry way of the massive college hall, we bumped into each other again and he asked me if I wanted to go on a walk during the afternoon break from studies.
The first weeks of our friendship still carry vivid memories nearly two decades later. That one mile loop became a path that we frequented. Trudging through cold English countryside pastures, sidestepping puddles and sheep manure, scaling rock fences and summiting the hill to watch the afternoon thunderclouds roll in. Our friendship began to grow and bud in the dead of the bitterly cold British winter. Time wasn’t wasted on superficial conversations of casual friendship. Neither of us were interested in recreational dating. We dove into the deep end of discussions on families of origin…life calling and a shared passion for missions in our futures….theology….faith….and Greek!
(yes, Im embarrassed to say he talked me into being a study partner in an optional Greek class, in which I had no interest other than time with him).
He pursued me.
He listened intently.
He asked intentional questions and gave me space to respond.
He was a safe place.
I felt cherished.
The center of his world.
And then our year at bible college ended. A beautiful year that cloistered us away in a fairy tale alter-universe protecting from a reality that we collided into shortly thereafter.
The Plot Thickens
The stage was set for Act II of our relationship to look very different than the dreamy happily-ever-after I imagined when our story began in a castle.
Constant unsettling moves. A husband who traveled 50-70% of the time for work. Isolation at home with small children in an unfamiliar country. Culture shock living in cold Eastern Europe. Baggage we’d both brought into marriage. Loneliness.
Demands on our time left us little space to cultivate our relationship and we discovered, the language barrier wasn’t only with the foreigners. Our conversations were often soured by expectations, complaints and ungraciousness. Our commitment was steadfast, but we were both just surviving.
Striving, but not thriving.
I woke up one day and discovered this wasn’t what I signed up for when I married him.
I no longer felt cherished and adored, and I was certain I was a chronic disappointment to him too. My heart felt it had been exposed and discarded and my immature perception fueled a sense of betrayal. I convinced myself he’d done it intentionally. Lured me in with the charm and charisma, only to be cast aside as he pursued the next “damsel in distress”….work that required all his time and emotional energy and focus.
So I retreated. Bitterly.
This is not the man I fell in love with.
Id be surprised if this realization isn’t a common one in any marriage that has withstood the onslaught of time, trials or transitions.
But the true tragedy is that I began to buy the lie that it would always be this way. That we’d just follow the pattern of other marriages we’d watched simultaneously working, raising kids and getting by, with no spark or shared passion.
A dear older couple came to visit us overseas about 5 years into marriage and took us out to dinner. They began asking hard questions. How was our marriage? How were we managing overseas with small children?
I poured out my unmet expectations and crippling fear of failure as a wife. Then bit my lip and mustered up a profound resolve that I needed to toughen up and stop being such a hopeless romantic and get it together!
Suck it up!
Our friend looked at me across the table and corrected me, “Dont ever stop dreaming. When you stop dreaming, the marriage starts to die“.
The words stuck with me. Gritting your teeth and sticking it out in marriage sounds noble, but apathy in relational growth is an infection. An infection that untreated, will poison a marriage. C and I both wanted a vibrant marriage, but life was getting in the way….. good things…ministry, family, work….but poor substitutes for the oneness we knew was Gods design for marriage. We renewed a resolve that we would not become another marriage like that.
That we would not settle.
That we would fight for it and keep dreaming!
Pursuing Happily Ever After
Change didn’t take place overnight.
There were no quick fixes.
Resorting to old patterns came naturally and for years it felt like two steps forward, one step back. But we began a long journey of re-learning how to put the marriage first. How to communicate openly and how to listen again. We began to dream together about what Gods design was in putting two people together who were so vastly different. We purposed to understand each other instead of correct each other. We started to ask God to change us instead of begging Him to change the other. We haven’t “arrived”, but I can say today with great joy that that this is not the man I fell in love with.
The change has been transformational.
I love this guy even more than the man I started to fall for 19 years ago.
Today as I launch Glittering Grace Magazine, Im humbled by the man God has given as my life partner. A man who has sought God. Who has mellowed over the years and whom God has used to shape and refine me. In the past months of preparing for the launch, he has been my biggest advocate, my champion, my encourager when Ive doubted, my technical troubleshooter, my rock. Ive been absolutely awed by the sacrifices he’s made, meals he’s prepared, childcare he’s offered, time he’s gifted me and encouragement he’s bestowed in this endeavor. My prayer is that this magazine will encourage other women who feel their marriage is lifeless. If God can breathe life into dry bones, (Ezekiel 37:14) he can spark hope in stagnant marriages and redeem what has been lost!
I hope in another 19 years….or when we celebrate our 50th anniversary, that we will be different people still then.
That our love will continue to mature as we change, conform, submit, understand, compromise and grow in grace for one another.
This is not the man I fell in love with.
He’s even better!
Take a moment to visit Glittering Grace. Ive just launched this new online Womens Subscription Magazine endeavoring to be a source of strength, encouragement, and extension of grace to women in the throes of marriage in parenting. To celebrate women and inspire beauty for the home and heart!
This outreach to women additionally helps to support our family and ministry overseas. Thank you for considering subscribing!
17 years and its never been cleaned, but somehow it still sparkles and I’m absolutely ga-ga for that crystal jeweled detail and lace up corset as much as I was nearly 2 decades ago when I tried it on for the first time.
I pulled it out of the back of the closet on our wedding anniversary for the girls to try on.
But, they insisted I put it on first.
Boy those girls know how to make a momma feel good.
They “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” and told me I looked like a princess and insisted I keep it on until their daddy got home!
And then they each, in turn, slipped on the crinoline underskirt…..and we cinched the lace-up corset around each of their various slender and slender-er frames……and hooked the ballgown skirt closures at the waist …..and they each turned to look in the mirror with a little “gasp” and wide-eyed wonder ……and this momma may or may not have gotten a huge lump in her throat as they each took my breath away!
Because, another 7 or 17 years will pass in a blink and Ill have daughters who aren’t just playing dress up.
Daughters who wear white.
Daughters who walk down the aisle radiantly.
Daughters who embark on the hardest and most rewarding of life’s paths – marriage.
So, grow in grace, girl!!
You have your whole wonderful life ahead of you…adventures, plans, passions and so much to accomplish in the short years before you choose your life partner and lay down your individual rights and will to partner with another.
Dont take lightly that surrender of who you are is a big part of what marriage is.
Yes, its love and its comraiderie and its sex and its partnership and its fulfilling and its fun, but its a giving out of the deepest part of your soul too.
Its a surrender, a dying to self.
So grow in grace, girl!
You’ll spend the next few years finishing your education. You’ll develop a calling and pursue a career. You’ll make friends and establish a way of doing things that feels right and comfortable to you.
And then you’ll marry and it will feel sometimes like you’ve lost a part of yourself.
So, grow in grace, girl!
Be mindful that the world will define beauty as skin deep. Your slender form now will one day meet the challenges of childbearing and the metamorphosis of becoming a mother will be an internal, not an external glow.
when morning sickness leaves you heaving over a toilet…
when childbirth damages physically and drains you emotionally…
when sleeplessness takes a toll and hormones wreak havoc….
you’ll look in the mirror and sometimes won’t recognize the girl looking back at you with bags under her eyes.
The nails you and your sisters love to polish almost daily, might be unkept. But your hands will serve your husband, maintain your home, and caress your babies and beauty will be there, growing, flourishing, but might not be visible.
So, grow in grace, girl!
Grow in grace, girl.
For grace is the only beauty that won’t age.
Put your roots down deep in the Lord.
Draw your strength from something that is not your own.
Marriage is not for the easily discouraged.
Being a wife is not for the entitled.
Mothering is incomparable with selfishness.
Strength & dignity, determination and dedication, passionate pursuit of the Lord are the cosmetic bag of beauty tools that aren’t going to expire.
Grow in grace, dear girl!!
That unfading beauty is yours!!
The census is way down at our house this week with 4 of our 7 children visiting family out of state.
That leaves “only” three at home.
(Practically a vacation for me!)
I figured I’d have a record amount of uninterrupted time and I planned my to-do list accordingly.
With overcast skies as an excuse to not leave the house today, my best laid plans included staying in my yoga pants, working on my business from home, and filling the blow-up-pool to entertain the two youngest.
After we finished a pancake breakfast on the patio, I employed by teenage son to blow up the kiddie pool (no small endeavor). After which, we realized that the backyard hose wasn’t working. (Do you have any idea how many rubbermaid containers filled and carried outside it takes to fill a kiddie pool? )
While Tristan worked on re-plumbing the backyard hose system, I heaved 10,000 buckets and basins of water outside.
That was a lot simpler in my mind that it ended up being!
Well into the late morning now, I settled myself on the patio in my adirondak chair in blissful 79 degree weather with my bible, computer, pen and paper, journal, juice and sighed deeply!
No sooner had I cracked my computer, Eden wanted his sunglasses.
90 seconds later later, Gigi needed a towel (you know….so she could dry off and then get back in the pool again!)
It’s now been at least an hour since breakfast, so they are “staaaaaaarving” and requesting a snack.
Eden stubbed his toe on the concrete….tears.
Gigi needed her hair pulled up in a ponytail….again.
When I told Eden to stop drinking the pool water, he then of course needed his sippy cup.
Gigi was grossed out by grass that got tracked in the pool and Eden was mad she wouldn’t swim with him anymore.
What a neurotic notion on my part that they’d play contentedly for hours!
I think we stayed outside for a total of 27 minutes before Eden’s teeth were chattering and it started to rain.
The pool toys are now strewn all across the patio, towels are soggy, my journal is wet from splashing, and my creative juices are the only thing that are not flowing!
Im pretty sure this is where the term “throwing in the towel” comes from.
As I dried everybody and everything off, I silenced my headstrong tendencies to pound out some overdue correspondence and polish off projects, and instead, I climbed in bed with my cranky toddler.
And Gigi too, snuggled in saying she was tired and cold and just wanted to “rest, not sleep“.
Lying in bed with an unproductive morning behind me, and my arms full of cold, cuddly babes taking naps, I couldn’t help but smile.
How many moments like this do I miss by striving to “do” instead of being content to just “be”?
Grateful for these end-of-the-rope mommy moments that readjust our life and realign our priorities and remind us….
Remind us that our children are not just little comrades of chaos to disrupt our day and shake our sanity. Their requests, demands, dirty diapers, needs and interruptions are all a means by which God is sanctifying us. Our pouring out for our kids weeds the self-centered gardens of our hearts and gives us a gift we dont know we need…..that of laying down our lives for our children. A sowing that will bear fruit and that makes a difference.
In the daily grind.
With dish-water nails and messy bun.
In the moments of feeling unproductive and measuring our worth by measuring our accomplishments. It’s then that one more sippy cup needing filled can drive us to our knees, slow our distracted pace, and focus our weariness on the wonderful gifts that are ours.
Give yourself a break.
Just go with it, momma!
Go snuggle those little loves and pull the covers over your head for a while!