Friday, May 20, 2016

19 Years and Counting {The Joypain of Marriage}

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It's been 19 years since my groom sung me down the aisle. 

No dry eyes in the chapel that day. Except for mine. It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, and my smile and hope for the future matched the perfectly pure, cerulean sky. Even when my groom's voice shook ever so slightly and his eyes filled with tears, I didn't cry. I was too excited. 

My day had arrived. The day many girls spend their lives dreaming about. I'd finally become a precious bride.

You might be wondering why I didn't choose a more wedding-ish photo for this song, but I think this one represents the long road of marriage much better. The marital road can be a bit rocky and dusty, and maybe even a little barren at times. The aisle you walk as a beaming bride is kind of like starting out on the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz. It's beautiful and bright and nicely paved at first. Eventually, though, the road becomes marked with broken, loose, and even missing bricks which create holes that are perfect for tripping traveling feet. That same road also passes through dark, foreboding forests and jungles in which terrifying beasts abide. Sound like marriage much?

On that beautiful, sunny, forever-ago day, my satin-slippered feet took those very first steps onto the aisle that forever changed my life. The man who was about to become my husband had written and was now singing those beautiful words with all the love that was in him, oblivious to the reality of how hard it would be to live them out. Not because he was a terrible person - quite the opposite - but because marriage is just hard. The mystery of turning two into one was (and still is) far more complicated than we could have ever dreamed.

And so began our journey of the joypain of marriage.

You see, it didn't take long for clouds to roll in and turn my cerulean sky a gloomy shade of gray. Quite frankly, the storms of life threatened to crumble my happily ever after.

It didn't take long for my smile to fade and for my hopes and dreams to match the somber sky.

It didn't take long for me to understand why so many marriages end up in divorce.

Marriage can bring out the worst in people can't it? The very traits that draw two people together and make them fall in love in the first place turn into the very things that drive them CrAzY!! If you are married, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm guessing no examples are even needed here! ;)

Weaknesses or even just natural tendencies are magnified to the max as well. I'm naturally pretty selfish and vocal, and if it was humanly possible for ears to smoke, mine would. My husband, on the other hand, tends to be more independent and withdrawn. I'm telling you, this guy could probably be happy living in a tent in the middle of nowhere as long as it was green and woodsy. Of course I could go on and on, especially when it comes to all of my shortcomings and epic fails, but the idea here is that these things can drive deep wedges and build massive walls between two people pretty quickly.

Of course, I'm barely scratching the surface here, but I guess my point is that seemingly light-hearted, nit picky things mixed together with unexpected hardship and sorrow can make for a not-so-tasty marriage recipe. I write with tear-filled eyes as I think back on some of the storms we've weathered together. We had no idea how long life's road would truly be as we said our vows to one another, vows written from the depths of our very own hearts. We meant each and every word, but trials and tribulation have a way of stealing joy.

Trials aren't all bad. I believe God uses them to sanctify, to make us more like Him. Trials can produce strength and build character, especially when our focus is on heavenly things. My husband and I have had to learn that marriage means dying to self daily. I think I've failed in this department more than I've triumphed, but I'm thankful for God's mercy and grace and patience. I'm thankful for my husband's mercy and grace and patience, too.

I'm thankful for the joys in our marriage journey that have helped to balance out the pain. Building our first home. Having our first baby and then adding two more down the road. Celebrations. Good friends. Long walks. A vacation or two. Just to name a few. While difficult, marriage hasn't been all prickles and stings. :) If your marriage has been filled with mostly rainbow skies and daisy fields, wow, what a blessing! Be grateful. And feel free to leave all of your tried and true marriage tips in the comment section. :)

We've made it 19 years not because we've got this but because we've held on to our no-matter-what commitment first to God and then to each other. It does take two, though, for commitment to happen. While the road has indeed been long, I'm beyond grateful that my husband has kept his promise to love me, and cherish me, and never let me walk alone.

We planted a bonita ash tree in our front yard in honor of our 19 years of marriage, and because the house we bought didn't have one. We hope to start a new tradition of taking an anniversary pic every year in front of this tree. It will be fun to watch the tree grow tall and strong but not so fun to watch ourselves grow old. May we celebrate 19 more years and even more! (Please excuse the no makeup and weird shadows. We hired a 10-year-old photographer. Thank you.)

Before I go, I wanted to share the sweet gift my husband's grandma cross-stitched for us shortly after our wedding. So special.

May the 19th year be our best yet . . .

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