Can I tell you through a series of pictures what my husband and I have gone through in our marriage these past 9 years?
We all tend to post perfect pictures of our lives, masking the rawness that is perhaps going on underneath the poses. Yes, I get that most of us don’t enjoy looking at pictures of the messy areas of our lives. It creates a vulnerability that others may judge or opens your heart to wounds that one might receive.
Yet because I am in a place where my marriage is stronger than its ever been, I want to share with you how we got here. Likely not in the ways you might think.
I am not here to gloat about how perfect it is–it is far from perfection actually. I want to reveal the more authentic glimpse into the ups and downs we’ve faced in our marriage making it what it is today. Let me move you past some of the pretty pictures of our past revealing now the messiness we were facing in those times.
You will see, we are not superhuman and are far from having a perfect marriage. Yet it’s something to be celebrated that I have never felt more secure in our marriage than this day on our 9 year wedding anniversary. Through the battles that have wanted to rip us apart, stagnate our love, or prevent further intimacy and connection with one another, we have fought to establish a bond of commitment, respect, and love for each other that is beyond what we personally would have been capable of on our own.
Because I’ll bet some of you may be going through your own storms or trials in the pursuit of love and happiness. Some of you may be thinking it would be easier to give up and try again. Some of you might have already given up and don’t believe you will be able to try at love again because your past leaves you tainted without hope.
But guess what? There is always hope.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for good and not disaster, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
Here is the cliff notes version of our journey…
We got engaged March 24, 2006 after 2 years of dating in college. At this time I was struggling with finding my place in the world, giving up my dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner (for very relevant reasons at the time) in order to support the love of my life with his career. It’s been worth it over the years, but at this time I was struggling with my identity.
Fast forward to our wedding day on September 22, 2006 which was beautiful, picture perfect, and everything I hoped it would be. Yet two months before this day my lifelong best friend was found suddenly in a coma struggling for her life (which to this day she is still not fully the same), I was preparing myself to move half way across the country with my new husband secluding myself even further from friends and family that I desperately needed at this time, and I was sinking into depression which would consume me for the first year-and-a-half of marriage when things were supposed to be all rainbows and daffodils.
We loved each other, yes. Yet we struggled with how to love each other. Jeff was wondering if he married the wrong girl. I was wondering if my husband had any emotions. We weren’t speaking each others language of love very well. It wasn’t until well into year 2 of our marriage, after nearly entering into an affair due to the lust of my own messed up heart, we began to seek help and counsel towards better communication of our love for each other.
I found my best friend in my dog at this time. We struggled to establish new friendships in a giant city in Southern California yet we slowly began to gain friendships through our church and community around us. I was in and out of jobs I hated, to which I finally decided to go back to school and pursue a career as a dental hygienist which was of great benefit to me in many ways.
Things were looking up and up between us. I was working as a dental hygienist now, Jeff was beginning to gain ground and stability with his career. We had many more friendships and were enjoyed the DINK lifestyle (dual income – no kids). Yet we sensed something was missing. The next step was children right?
Nothing could prepare us for the demands that kids, especially twin babies, would put on our life. We were exhausted, weary, and in a fog for most of those first 6 months of their lives.
Moving past the fog, we began to find our new normal with kids. At this time things on the outside looked perfect. Jeff’s career was flourishing, we just bought a dream house, we had plenty of friends, I was working part-time as a dental hygienist which I loved and I became a mother of 2 babes overnight! Jeff and I were doing… good… yet there was still something missing.
There were cracks in our hearts that we were seeking to fill in ways that only left us wanting for more. Most of this was unbeknownst to us until a major event took place in the heart of my husband toward a path of deeper intimacy with God facilitating into our marriage in ways I never would have expected.
Walls began to break down. Hard walls. Wounding walls. Some walls we didn’t realize were there. Other walls we simply didn’t want to face. Yet we knew in faith we were being asked to risk exposing our weaknesses and faults to each other in order to establish deeper intimacy than we’ve ever experienced.
But the beautiful thing? Healing and growth beyond what we dreamed became the fruit of it.
A deeper more real relationship with God began us on a path towards discovering life in a new way. Yes we had already taken the first step by entering into a personal relationship with God years before this moment, yet we never fully grasped the true potential of our relationship in Christ until this pivotal moment in time.
Yes things were changing in our hearts. However I still was facing issues in my heart that needed to be overcome before deeper growth and change in me (in the ways I yearned to become changed) would become present in my daily life. My heart was still troubled and holding onto its wounds, depression was clinging to me yet again with the pregnancy of my daughter and arrival of her postpartum.
Yet I was ready to grow. Find permanent lasting change. A change that would give me the freedom to fully live in the ways I knew I was meant to live. The amazing thing? My husband was right there alongside me encouraging me every step of the way.
My faith began to change me. It began to change us. If I’m being truly honest, God began to take root in my heart in ways I’ve never allowed before. If it wasn’t for this heart mending and heart changing path I was on, the suicide of my niece would have left my heart spiraling out of control. I have seen how the sudden death of a loved one crushes spirits, sending those left behind down a path of bitterness, unforgiveness, doubt and despair.
But I had a choice.
A choice to let the pain and questions of it take over my heart or to allow this painful moment catapult me into deeper intimacy with the One who I knew would sustain me through this heartbreak. I chose the latter.
I have never been more confident of who I am than in this moment of my life at the ripe ole age of 32.
I am not afraid anymore of being different from the rest of the crowd because of my desires to be teaching women about Gods word on Monday nights instead of being home watching the Bachelor on ABC.
I am not afraid of being disowned by some friends because I’ve become a little too “religious” for their taste.
I am not afraid of being authentic, exposing parts of me that naturally wants to be left unveiled to the world–because if revealing to others these ugly parts of myself helps one other person out there know that they aren’t alone and gives them hope towards a better path in life, its worth it.
I’m not afraid of my heart being stomped on by others because my heart is fully rooted in the One who loves me unconditionally.
Let’s be honest, I am a beautiful mess. My life is a beautiful mess. My marriage is a beautiful mess. Yet I love the beautiful mess that I’ve become. If it wasn’t for the One who holds this beautiful mess together, holds the two of us in our marriage together, we would be nothing but… simply… a mess.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV)