Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eight Years and Counting

 Eight years.

A wise old couple who has 50 years or more under their belt wouldn’t say that is such a long time.  They might say our life together is young and we still have a long way to go, and much to face and much more (hopefully) to enjoy.

And in a sense, they’d be right.

Eight years isn’t really that long of a time when you’re just looking at the number.  But when you look at the content of our eight years together, it might as well be fifty.  Or a hundred.

In the past 8 years, we’ve been blessed with 7 children, including the 2 we lost and the 1 we had just before we got married.  My husband has changed jobs a few times and lost 2 in one year, resulting in us starting a business which we’ve been growing for the past 4.  We’ve gone through 4 or 5 vehicles, changing to accommodate our growing family or the need for something more reliable and safe.  We’ve moved once.  We have made many changes to our home, trying to make it a comfortable, safe haven for our children to be happy in.  

But for the most part, that’s all just the practical stuff; aspects of a life together that usually come by default.

The nitty gritty of the last eight years is this:

We have welcomed 5 children into our life to change us, challenge us and make us want to be better people.  These little beings have cracked us wide open, our hearts spilling out and growing larger with each moment of their lives, each crevice they fill in with their love.  These children have taught us the true meaning of love in so many different ways.  They’ve delivered the grace of God through their spirited personalities and they’ve taught us that prayer is the best defense against the challenges life presents us with.  We’ve put aside our selfish desires to allow the gift of these children to transform our life together to be what God wants it to be.

We have been through the gauntlet, facing undesirable, ugly and difficult aspects of life.  Not many people face the same sorts of things we have, though every marriage has trials, some far worse than what we’ve been through.  But just as we allowed the kids to weave their way into the deepest parts of our hearts, so too did we allow each other.  There was a while there, when I didn’t want to open my heart up to my husband.  I had been hurt a lot in the past, and in the first years of our marriage, he hurt me so much as well.  It was really difficult for me to trust him with the most vulnerable part of me.  But he was my husband, wasn’t he?  And God put us together for more reasons than to be parents to our oldest daughter.  It took a few years, a lot of soul-searching, a lot of prayer and a heart-wrenching detachment from my fears to give him 100% of my already-tattered heart, and trust that he wouldn’t abuse it more.

 But he did.
And I know I hurt his, too.  In the time that I was so consumed with protecting my own heart, I didn’t really think much about how I was handling his.  A common mistake made in a marriage, especially one that didn’t start out exactly perfect.  Without going into a ton of detail, suffice it to say that our relationship was not the poster model for Christ-centered marriages.  We tried.  Some days, more than others.  But there was just so much we hadn’t surrendered.  And I had to learn how to love Joe no matter what happened.

The world would look at our relationship and say that one or the other of us was crazy for sticking it out. Especially through all the horrendous phases we went through, all the craziness and chaos that we created for each other at times early on.  But those people would be wrong.  There’s a great measure of sacrifice you make when you become someone’s wife or husband.  When you allow your whole life to be turned inside out to allow them to make their home in your heart.  Sometimes this means that you will endure things you never would imagine, and wouldn’t have even thought of as a healthy person in a non-marital relationship.  It means opening up your heart, knowing that at times, it will get hurt, but trusting that if you can keep true to your vows, and really live them, you will be ok.  Because love is not just a feeling. It isn’t some cliché.  It isn’t necessarily a fairy tale.  It’s effort.  It’s action.  

It means enduring and sacrificing even for the sole reason of showing that person the unconditional love that no one else in their life ever has.

I look back on the last 8 years and I see so much growth and change.  At one point, it seemed like it was ‘you against me’ instead of ‘us against the world’ and the reality of that wasn’t really all the pretty.   I realize that things could definitely be better still, but we are where we are right now because we agreed to love each other no matter what.  In good times and in bad.  Often we didn’t know how to do that, to love.  We each had to learn what love looked like at each moment, in every scenario.  Over and over again.  And that no matter what, we were called to make that effort to the best of our ability.  Sometimes it was 50/50, others 90/10.  Sometimes it was 100/0. Sometimes it was 0/0 and God had to pull all the weight because neither of us really wanted to. 

But we learned.  And we loved. And we made it to 8 years.  I know it doesn’t sound like very many, and we have much more to learn, more ways to figure out how to love each other, more miles to walk to meet each other in a place that strengthens our relationship and makes it last longer still.  More compassion to find, more passion to exude, more prayers to offer.  But I am grateful for - and humbled by - the last 8 years, the experience we’ve tucked into our arsenal, the moments we’ve been beaten to the ground by life, only to find each other there in that dark place and pick each other back up, realizing that it really is us against the world.  

Happy Anniversary, honey!