Marriage & Family
The words of our pre-marital counselors have rung in my ears for nearly 2 decades now….
“But for the grace of God, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance“.
John and Leeba, our mentors, were straight shooters and Im so grateful they were!
Let me offer a qualifying statement here. They were not saying that we shouldn’t get married or advising us to break up.
They were communicating the immense level of commitment we would need and analyzing that each of us were entering marriage with some baggage, which would require a lot of grit and grace for our marriage to thrive!!
And they were absolutely, positively right!
We’ve laughed before contemplating the fact that we’d never have met on a dating website because, we’d never have passed an algorithm that would deem us “compatible”!!
Truly, opposites attract and while we are still madly in love, we drive each other mad too!
But for the grace of God, 17 years later, we would not have thrived.
We would not have survived.
And I dont say that lightly.
All cliche’s aside….there have been moments of wanting to quit and seasons of intense hurt. This has not been an easy path, but one we choose…daily….taking each other by the hand, committing to not look back at past mistakes but to continue pressing on together knowing the view from the top will be worth the climb!
We still make some of the same, juvenile mistakes. We communicate poorly. We react. We inflict hurt with unmeasured words.
But we can glance back and see growth too.
My silent treatment game isn’t as strong as it once was, and God has chiseled out some sharp edges of Chad’s personality.
Some seasons are smooth sailing.
This has not been that season.
We’ve been in another cycle of hard work recently in this thing called marriage. Before my mother or mother-in-law reads this, yes, we are fine!!
(…and when I say FINE, I don’t mean Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional!) 🙂
We are in a good place, but this season of transition, a major move from overseas, reverse culture shock, role re-definement, job adjustment, lifestyle change, financial strain and children’s needs through the uprooting have been taxing factors on our time and relationship.
Someday, we’re gonna be a cute, doting, old, wrinkly couple who have “made it” and it will be easier then to talk about the hard days that are in the past. But for anyone else in the trenches, we hear ya and we’re there too!! Falling on grace every day as we thank God for this mirror of marriage that exposes our need of Him!
Chad and I are both quality time people.
We require a lot of communication, conversation, and uninterrupted engagement to be in a healthy place. Add seven children to the mix and you have a lot of competition for that time.
We were somehow under the false assumption that time time together would be easier when our kids got a little bit bigger. We’re there now with teens and realizing the opposite is true.
Our quality time used to be a matter of putting all the babies to bed at 7:30 and having a couple hours every evening that was “our” time.
Now the teenagers are putting us to bed and we have to be creative to connect over the chaos. We steal away to the back porch for a drink after dinner. Or run together early in the morning when our sleepy summer-schedule crew are still snoozing. It takes flexibility, but finding time for ‘just us’ is paramount!
I got to accompany Chad on a trip to CA last month for some meetings. This was the first time we’ve been away from the kids for more than a night in years! And it was so good for us!!
A reminder that someday, it will just be us.
Much of the conflict that we wrestle through is not directed at each other. It’s the circumstances of life. Someday the needs of children and voices and expectations of friends, family and in-laws won’t be as prominent and there will just be us.
And as we biked the golden gate bridge with no tagalongs, we remembered that we really do love us!
There are a few practical exercises we’ve found benefit us and remind us to extend grace when we’re consistent in implementing them.
There is something about bringing your brokenness to the Lord together that begins a healing process that cant be expedited through any other effort of restoration. Its a posture of humility. Before God, we are both sinners. We’re both at fault. Pretense and self-righteousness just dont hold up in front of a Holy and Just God.
Our walls of indifference, resentment and grudges are deconstructed by God as we lay down our right to be right and invite Him to heal. There are times I’m so angry that we cant talk, but Chad will take my hand and start praying. There is a short wrestling with God (with whom I am no match)…. and then tears.
Prayer together moves us from fighting with each other to fighting for our marriage. Confessing our sin and taking ownership. Opening the door again to communication with one another through a Mediator who forgives us and filters our failings and gives us grace for one another.
Im saddened by the number of friends who tell me they cant pray with their husbands either because their husband won’t, or because they’re not comfortable being that vulnerable around their husband. If you’re in that place, start by praying alone, that God would give you two the ability to come together in prayer and that He will build spiritual intimacy.
The kids come second.
We women tend to respond to whatever cries the loudest, (and typically, that’s not our husbands.) There are a dozen things vying for our attention, affection and time on a daily basis and we juggle the duties of chauffeur, nurse, tutor, cook, cleaner, counselor, mom, friend. And sometimes, the role of “wife” gets pushed to the back burner. Or even if we are aware of it, we forget that “friend” and “playmate” are part of the job.
Chad has n0 tolerance for interruption when he and I are having time together. That means when the little ones come wanting a snack or interjecting in our conversation, we dont engage them. They are reminded that this is mommy and daddy time and that they can wait until we are done.
Confession: Im not good at this.
But Ive cut too many conversations short by defaulting to the other needs that aren’t necessarily “needs” and allowing interruptions to derail our conversation. Children who grow up with the stability of knowing their parents commitment and love for one another will be able to rebound from any damage done by a delayed snack!
And your bright young rambunctious toddlers will not be permanently stunted by you letting the TV babysit them for 20 minutes to give you and your honey a few minutes to debrief their day!
Date your spouse.
We all hear it, but the excuses range from financial to logistical! This doesn’t have to be a hire-a-babysitter and make reservations on a Friday night expensive date. We’ve had to get creative over the years. When the littles were young (and we never had a babysitter). it was a regular thing for us to get wine and cheese and have a candlelit “dinner” after the kids went to bed. During the school year. sometimes it made sense for me to meet Chad for lunch or coffee. And thank God for a back porch and adorondak chairs in this season of life right now! We retreat there regularly.
The gesture of time carved out that is just yours gives something to look forward to and reminds us that all pressure, routines and stresses of life aside, this is us and grace has gifted us each other!
I think if we were all honest, we could identify with the same truth our marriage counselors not-so-subtly told us.
“But for the grace of God, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance.”
But for grace.
But for God!
We all have a mental image of that beautifully framed, stunning family portrait we’ll one day have hanging over the mantle in our home. Everyone facing the camera positioned “just so” with heads tilted “just right” and lovely, genuine, relaxed smiles (and no “cheesy” expression from the 5-year-old or baby with a finger in his nose).
Take a step back and realize that your imagined ideal is a bit “Pleasant-ville” when you think of it.
The truth is, that while the gallery wrap canvas mounted on your wall is beautiful, it may not be reflective of real life….and it’s not the life you’re going to remember 20 years from now when your kids are grown and gone. Real life is messy and imperfect and beautiful in a unique and unspoiled way. As a professional photographer, I feel some of my greatest achievements behind the lens have been the times Ive captured the raw, unfiltered, unedited sheer chaos of kids. The family in hysterics because the son has just slipped and fallen in bird poo. The giggly tickle wars or daddy playing “airplane” flying their toddler in the air. The sultry expression of the little imp who is glaring at the camera. The little angel unaware that Im clicking away while she examines the intricacies of a beautiful flower she’s just picked. These are the fleeting moments which comprise the minutes, hours, days, season, stages and years of our lives. Each one beautiful and irreclaimable. Time stands still for no one. This stage today, the styles and attitudes and whacky wardrobe choices of your toddler will never be again.
I have clients all the time who tell me they are wanting photos but just want to wait for the “right time” to schedule a session. Mom’s want their pre-pregnancy body back. Or they choose to wait until their 2 year old is at a more cooperative stage. They postpone until they have their summer tan on or until their 8 year old “grows into their new front teeth”. And then there are the photoshop post-processing requests “can you take 10 lbs off of me?…and airbrush the crows feet by my eyes?”
Meanwhile, life is blazing by with a thousand undocumented stages that we are missing because things aren’t “perfect”. But truly “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and beauty is to be found everywhere, every day. Perfect portraiture is not my forte – but photojournalism finds the beauty in the eyes of the contemplative child. The grasping hand of a newborn baby. The admiration in a glance between lovers. And the belly laughs and snot bubbles and baby-bed-heads.
After a particularly emotional photoshoot a few years ago, I have a new perspective on the immeasurable value of photos. I’ve occasionally had the sacred opportunity of photographing a number of precious wee babies whose lives lasted only a few hours or were born sleeping, but left an indelible imprint on the hearts of all who knew them. The images we captured this day are the only visuals that this grieving couple has of their precious baby boy. Photos give us something tangible to hold onto. To remember. To celebrate a life even when that loved one is gone.
Another friend of mine, a mom of four little ones, is in the final stages of cancer. Still, she takes photos. Every day, she photo documents the gifts around her. The sweet snuggles with her children in bed with her. The matching hats she and her son have that cover her bald head. The hands intertwined of her and her devoted husband who has loved her well through “sickness and in health”. These precious photos, the lasts smiles and cuddles and memories with her little ones will be treasures her kids will have for a lifetime!
My own passion for photography began about 9 years ago with my baby girl who had just undergone invasive surgery to repair her broken heart. As I leafed through the pictures my mom had taken of my husband and I holding our fragile baby girl, I was keenly aware that these may be the only photos Id ever have.
No one is harder on themselves than we are ladies! We suffer from photophobia at times. There are always gonna be wrinkles and muffin-tops, bad hair days and, well…..bad hair seasons. But there will come a day you’ll look back, and definitely days your kids will look back and wish they had more moments captured on film between the two of you. Step into those selfies. Don’t shy away from the shutter but to frame yourself into your children’s memories by being present. You don’t need expensive lenses and great gear. You may from time to time opt for a professional family photoshoot, but don’t wait for that perfect time to capture on camera the memories of today! iPhones leave you excuse-less for not snapping some silly selfies with your toddlers or photobombing your teens!
Six weeks before a rather significant birthday, I sent an email out to friends around the world that have worked with C in mission. There are great men of faith he’s been mentored by, and young men of vision he has invested in! Over the course of the next few weeks, messages poured in from the furthermost corners of the globe from people whose lives have crossed paths with his. As I secretly compiled the video messages and worked to piece together chapters of his life to gift him on his birthday, I was struck by a recurring theme that came through clearly message after message….
C has impacted lives for eternity through modeling a life of unwavering faith!
Our 9 year old Evie, (meloncholy-like-her-momma) actually cried when she watched the video.
“Happy tears momma“, she said. “I just cant believe that there are all these people all over the world who love God more because of daddy!”
And this is precisely the point.
His aim has not been to acquire the praise of men, material gain, or even stability, but always, to glorify the Lord and to make Him known! And in that, I believe, this amazing man has been hugely successful!
The kids see daddy leave. For weeks at a time they dont get bear-hugs and tickle-monster. They’ve had birthday calls from dad instead of birthday dates with dad more times than I can count. He’s had to miss performances and ball games and awards ceremonies.
They miss him.
Yet there are tears at times.
But this ‘wise-beyond-her-years’ glimpse from daughter of why, and the wisdom to discern the gravity of daddy’s impact and influence leaves me humbled. God is doing a deep work in their childlike hearts as well and giving them an eternal perspective of what really matters! They are proud of their daddy, and so am I!
There are a great many other things he does well that deserve accolades….
….I frequently acquiesce the kitchen to the preferred parent when it comes to dinner time. The kids love it when daddy cooks! Homemade pizzas and grilled fajitas and french onion soup are signature favorites!
…he is handy-man extraordinaire! There is precious little that he cant fix or rig or improve on his own. He’s currently out of town for two weeks and Ive already had to call a locksmith and a repair man and a plumber. Issues that would be resolved unbeknownst to me if my handyman-hubby were in town!
…he views father and husband as a high-calling. Its rare that he gets a guys-night-out because he chooses to be present in the lives of our kids. He makes family time a priority and still dates me and pursues my heart. Instead of golfing on Saturdays, he gets up and fixes made-to-order omelettes (can you tell my love language is food?).
…he leads spiritually by example and has imparted to our kids the importance of quiet time daily with the Lord.
…he is generous! Even as our own faith is stretched at times provide for our family of 9 while living on support, C’s heart remains sensitive to the needs around him and he responds with generosity to the ever pressing matters that are brought to his attention. Im constantly humbled by the way he seeks to be stewarding hands through which the Lord can bless others.
May the next 40 years ahead be even more fruitful and may the Lord continue to be glorified through his life and sacrifice and service. So grateful to be partnered in life with this man who lives with integrity and intentionality!
(its long, but for those who participated and care to see,
here is the 40th birthday video montage)