Marriage & Family
Embarking on this love story 15 years ago, I found myself falling fast for a guy who singled me out at college and quickly captivated my heart.
He was my first love.
I was mature enough to know I was looking through rose colored glasses, but young enough that I was trusting and not jaded or skeptical about love. When I gave him my heart, I gave him all of my heart….come what may!
And come it did.
A tidal wave of reality hit us only weeks after marriage with the discovery that a life would be born of our love. A month after marriage, we watched the twin towers collapse and questioned this world we were bringing our baby into. A short time later we held hands in a hospital room in utter disbelief at the news that there was not one, but two little lives we would have the responsibility of. Meanwhile, preliminary plans were underway for our departure to the mission field in Ukraine.
I felt like the oldest 21-year-old in the world.
This ushered us into the hardest season of our marriage. I felt abandoned relocating to a foreign country and then left on my own often when my husband traveled. I was a very young mom, lonely and living away from the support of friends and family. Between pregnancies and breastfeeding my 6 babies, there were very few months in our first 10 years of marriage that we didn’t have hormones working against harmony in our home. His perfectionist personality intensified my insecurities and my oversensitivity did not breed well with his criticism. There were tears, bitter tears at times, that seemed unredeemable. We hadn’t learned fighting-fair and I could harbor bitterness for a long time!
I know we loved each other. We were grounded in our commitment. But some days felt like that only, commitment. There were of course good seasons and we have loving memories of the kids being young, but many days were less than picture-perfect. Everyone who has been married for any length of time knows what survival mode looks like. We were just trying to manage life and support our family and fulfill our calling. And while we always worked to make our marriage a priority, honestly, the foundation we had in Christ was somedays the only hope we had of things getting better and moving beyond fighting for our marriage to being fulfilled in our marriage.
I look around me today at so many marriages that I see in the same boat we were in. An inability to imagine that you can move past the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of survival and actually find yourself in a thriving relationship. That’s a weapon the enemy has refined. If he can convince us that things will never change, then we will drown in doubt rather then be sustained through hard times with hope! I absolutely choked on that lie for years. The thought of my marriage always being what it was in its infantile stage took the breath and life out of me!
In some marriages, there has been so much damage done by unmeasured words, by unfaithfulness, by laziness, by misplaced priorities and by the erosion of indifference, that it feels like an impasse. And this is where naturally, the conclusion is often to end it. To divorce. The primal instinct is to protect ourselves. We believe things will never get better and we’re so crushed by the weight of circumstances and feel tethered to a person who is bringing us down, so we cut ties and run. We use reasoning like “bettering ourselves”. This belief that the person we’re married to is bringing out the worst in us and being without them frees us to be ourselves, is tainted. Marriage isn’t meant to simply make us “better” versions of ourselves. Marriage is meant to change and refine us. Refinement comes through fire!! That kind of heat hurts!! When a marriages main objective is holiness rather than happiness, then and only then, can try joy begin to take root and flourish into life from our offering of ourselves for God to work in and through!
Today he took me to breakfast. Sometimes growth takes place so gently and gradually over time that you don’t see it until you pause long enough to look back at how things used to be. How did we get to this place where there are no more walls. There is safety in vulnerability between each other. This morning I sat looking across the table at a very different man than the guy who ask me out on my first date, Valentines day 1999 and it almost reduced me to tears. Im SO grateful! He has softened. I have grown. He has learned to love me well and intentionally takes an interest in the things that interest me. Ive realized all I have to respect in him as a man whose heart is first and foremost seeking the Lord and who intentionally leads his family spiritually. We’ve changed. Our kids are jealous of the priority of time we give to each other. There is no doubt in their mind that we are each others best friend! They’ve remarked on the difference they see of that in their peers at school who come from homes where marriage is solely an institution. But, I hope they remember too, the rough years that brought us to this place, because someday they too will have that path to walk.
I absolutely marvel at what God has done in our life together. The days have been long and grueling, monotonous, emotional, chaotic, messy and hard work. The days have aged us both. With stretch marks and greying hair comes a history together that we’ve linked arms and survived as one, together. We see in military platoons, refugee groups and trauma survivors…..a link is established between people who weather difficult circumstances together. The days have been hard work physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally.
But….the years have been kind!
Ive experienced unconditional love through this man who has stood by my through some difficult years. Who has sought to know me, to really understand me in spite of my complicated emotions and inability to communicate well. Neither of us have been “easy” people to love at times. It has required humility both to give, and to receive love from the other. Marriage strips you bare. Pretense dissolves. And with that dangerous vulnerability comes a capacity to experience love in a way obscure to us when clothed with the facade of feigning who we want to be.
The greatest compliment came this week from our sweet Filipino house-helper who said “Ma’am, you and Sir are so in love, you like boyfriend and girlfriend”. If anyone has seen our marriage up close and personal, its her. She gets the daily grind responses and unfiltered reactions. She’s seen us fight. And she sees the love notes scribbled on the mirror in lipstick. To that I can only respond, God has done this!! This love has not always been so. This is a redeemed love. A love that’s had a lot of crap filtered out. A love that has been bombarded by circumstances and sinfulness that has sought to destroy it. This is a love that has relied on grace to nurture it and forgiveness to fuel it. Our communication, our love life, our compatibility, our unity, our parenting and our friendship has grown exponentially I believe because of, (not in spite of) the hard years we’ve weathered together! Im not naive in believing there wont be other hard seasons, but here I raise my ebenezer and look toward the future with the same hope.… “Thus far the Lord has helped us”
(1 Samuel 7:12)
Its cliche to say “I love him more today than the day I married him”, because, I loved him with every fiber of my being when we said our vows. I didnt love him any less that day than I do today, but that love was an untested, unproven love. It was immature. It was only a shadow of the real deal. Love is tested and tried through circumstances that bring out the worst and most unlovely and still, integrity and faithfulness triumph. Time, hurt, healing, grace and a history together has brought about the kind of love that brings deepest fulfillment and intimacy. By withstanding the test of time in marriage, love is something that is incubated through circumstances that give opportunity to display the evidences of the fruit of the Spirit and embrace the example of love talked about in 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22.
Those opportunities don’t come in the euphoric stages of a courtship because we see the other as flawless. They come when the facades fall and you acknowledge the challenge it will be to love someone who is imperfect and selfish.
“Love does not insist on its own way”….laying down your life and rights for the other is HARD.
“Love always hopes”….forgiving the other and moving on without holding the past over the other is not our natural inclination.
“Love is not easily angered”……there’s no clause of exception for if your spouse has done the same thing that irritates you repeatedly!
“Love is patent”…..sometimes this means seasons, years, decades of hardship or hard work before you see growth, compatibility or romance reborn, but God is FAITHFUL!! And as we honor Him by fulfilling our vows and taking our disappointment to Him, He can breathe new life!!
To the lonely (married) heart on Valentines day….to the young bride struggling with “what have I gotten myself into”….or the mom in the trenches feeling she’s doing it all on her own…..or the woman who is tired and considering her options….hear me when I say, it gets better. Dont give up. Stick it out. God’s going to do something in you through a marriage that’s less than fulfilling. Something He couldn’t do if you were comfortably in a relationship relying on your husband instead of relying on Christ!
He has you in a classroom that may be even more work than quantum physics, more unnerving than organic chemistry or more monotonous than advanced math, but it is only that, a classroom, a stage, a season. Learn lessons. Learn them well. Embrace all God wants to work in your life through the needs that feel so unmet and the lonely empty hours you need Him to fill. Marriage was His idea and He knows the growth that needs to take place in both your life and your husbands life. But He will not leave you there and you are not without hope. He promises to be faithful to complete the work He has begun. And in time, in His time, you will be able to look back with joy and hope and declare, the Lord has done this!!
Our Christmas was quiet. Unusually relaxing. And beautifully simple.
As we awoke Christmas morning to the same hum of power tools on the construction site next door and the traffic sounds on the street below, I was struck by the oblivion of the people around me carrying on with their normal tasks like any other day. A poignant reminder that the first Christmas really, is so far from the ideals of Norman Rockwell paintings and Martha Stewart publications. The birth of Jesus didnt bring society screeching to a halt. Bethlehem carried on unaware of a king in their midst. There was no hallelujah chorus heralding his birth. Christ was born into meager, humble surroundings. And life forever changed and hope was born because of God incarnate. So grateful to know the joy in which we celebrate. Immanuel – God with us!
WE’RE GOING HOME THIS SUMMER FOR A VISIT!!!!!
Evie’s amazing Wish coordinator has kept tabs on us for the last two years. We let her know we were going to be Stateside this summer and she advocated for those dates. Evie’s big wish will come true in July!!! A Disney cruise to meet the princesses and ride a waterside!! She is beyond ecstatic! It will be the trip of a lifetime and we’re so humbled and grateful our girl is a recipient of such an amazing gift!!
Heaven just got a little sweeter.
In the sacred, sober days leading up to Grandma’s passing, the veil between the present and eternity became very thin. Time stood still and we watched the things of earth grow dim as she was ushered into glory! Even through our tears, we celebrate that she has shed this shell of a body and has passed from glory to glory, being welcomed into the arms of her loving Lord who I know has now spoken, “well done my good and faithful servant!” Hers was a life well lived and well loved. The lifelong devotion of my sweet grandpa whom she’s known since childhood. 2 children. 11 grandchildren. 17 great grandchildren. What a legacy she has left!
“Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints. ” (Psalm 116:15)
What a woman. What a saint!
My own mother has often said that “sweet old ladies don’t come from crochety young women“. And its true. Our flaws are compounded as we age and our polished techniques of disguising our true colors become tarnished. The “real” us percolates to the top when our bodies grow tired or we face pain or heartache or loss. Grandma has had her share of each. Her life has been anything but easy and yet, none of us can remember Grandma with any expression other than a perpetual smile radiating on her face. Arthritis has wrought her hardworking hands for years, and still she’s served us pies and baked apples and homemade noodles every Christmas and Thanksgiving up to this, her 93rd holiday! Cancer has wracked her body in recent years, yet we’ve never heard her complain. Her fierce devotion for the lifetime of her disabled daughter set an amazing example to the rest of us. The mothering of my own daddy which contributed to the man of character that he is, shows some amazing parenting. And her loving marriage that has stood the test of time and weathered wartime separation, hard years of farming and raising two children goes down in my book as the greatest love story Ive ever personally witnessed. She has been well loved by this man who knew he’d found a remarkable woman when he married her 74 years ago.
Her happiness was not circumstantial. Her joy came from an internal beauty….the unfading beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:4) Its an excuse to say that we are byproducts of our circumstances because she’s exemplified so much grace and poise in spite of life circumstances that have not been easy.
Even as cancer has taken its final toll on her body in the last days leading up to her death, she never lost her dignity. Her countenance and demeanor still possessed the grace, joy, peace and gentleness that we all love about her. As bodily functions began to shut down, her genuine sweet-to-the-bone temperament continued to seep out. I hear she was still thanking nurses and apologizing for troubling them up to the morning of her passing.
God was gentle in taking her….at peace, without a long struggle, in the company of those who love her, just as we had prayed. And as pained as we are to see one so loved taken from us, Evie said it best “Why are you crying mommy, she’s with Jesus and thats the best thing“.
And its true! Where oh death is your sting? Absence from the body is presence with Christ! For those in Christ, we have the assurance that this is not the end. Our lives here are temporal. Fleeting. This world is not our home. Because of the penalty for sin that Jesus paid on the cross, death does not have the final word. New life is ours in Christ. Our hope is secure. Our home is in heaven! Cant imagine facing death or witnessing the death of a loved one without that unshakable assurance.
Grieving hard here tonight in the quiet of my home. C is out of the country this week and the littles are sleeping. Feeling the distance acutely as extended family gathers and commemorates her life together this week and we are a world away with time marching on as usual. Aching for that closure of collective time to remember and reminisce and offer support to my siblings and parents and grandpa. But I smile through the tears as I imagine the reality that is hers. I had mother whisper to her yesterday that I have two babies in heaven waiting for her to hold them!
Perhaps we’ll have to do some commemorating of our own today and bake a pie in her honor!
“Her children arise and call her blessed. Her husband also and he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28)
So grateful for the gift of so many years we’ve been blessed with to love and be loved and learn from this beautiful godly woman!
Happy Homegoing sweet Grandma.