Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Notes on A Marriage

Cory and I hightailed it up to Michigan on Sunday to belatedly celebrate our 15th anniversary.
We used to get away together more often...back when life was different in lots of ways. Upon reflection, we've only had one night alone in the past 18 months where we weren't sick as a coupl'a hound dogs.

Summary: We were long overdue.

For two nights, we stayed up late, slept in late (our dream schedule!) ate fantastic food cooked by NOT ME, read books, strolled around, held hands, took selfies, ate snacks, took naps, adventured, and generally had a blast together. We also hot-tubbed.

The first night we talked about the kinds of things that require mental energy reserves and zero interruptions; important things like mission and little kids and big kids, community, church, the jailbirds. We'd caught a breather, so we regrouped and dreamed without restrictions, our faces barely lit, feeling bold and gutsy in boiling hot water under sheets of stars like the ones in the movies.

Just before my face started to throb (my signature "you've had enough hot tub, Martin") I flashed back to 13 years ago, sitting at my end of our blue striped couch, bawling my eyes out because I was in a mess of a marriage and I couldn't see an end.

I wanted out. Everything felt hopeless. All I could imagine was an eternity of unhappiness. Things had spiraled so quickly and I was terrified of the shifting ground. I felt unloved, unlovable, very alone. (And everything I felt, Cory probably felt double.)

Right there against the backdrop of my misery and the dingy paint job of our "economical" apartment, God shoved past my crap and told me the truth about things. "See how hard the enemy is fighting to destroy you two? Just imagine what he's scared of. Just imagine the good you'll do with me, together."

In an instant, a page turned.
I felt the slip of paper under my fingertips, heard the rustling brush of words on words, saw, for the first time in a good, long while, some white space. Room for a future.

I had no idea it was what I wanted, what I'd been looking for.

That was the beginning of this right here.
We couldn't possibly have imagined it.

We moved to DC, re-soldered our mangled commitment to each other, got jobs in politics, hitched our stars to the American Dream, went to church, payed our tithe, adopted babies, bought a farm.

I clung to those cheap-carpet words whenever I felt tremors beneath our fine-tuned life.

I decided our little ones were the "good" we were doing together.
And they were. Still are.

But I had no idea there was more.

I didn't imagine a future of loss and instability and surrender and loneliness.
I didn't dream of a little house on a shabby street, a failing public school, or that my husband would spend his days with criminals but call them his friends.
In my wildest wishes, I couldn't trace the shape of a tall kid with an ankle bracelet and a heart broken so long, he thought it was supposed to feel that way.

Back then, I thought bigger was better and more was more.
I thought Jesus kept His best gifts on the tallest shelf, so I climbed. With my husband.

It would have been foolishness to imagine that our greatest purpose, our near-tangible peace, would look like bits of broken dreams.

Wearing a ridiculous bikini, skimming the bubbles with my fingertips, staring at my man, it clicked into place. It crystallized.

This life right here, this was part of God's purpose for us, inked before the first bloom of time.
It's not so exceptional. It's not the kind of life they make movies about.
To us, it is ordinary.
It is grueling, some days.
It can feel thankless and annoying and sometimes, boring to its core.

All those gifts I mentioned, the ones I didn't even know to ask for, they aren't because we did anything right or because we're very smart in the ways of righteousness. They are grace. Only grace. The kind that makes you fall to your knees. The kind that makes you remember your depravity. The kind that makes you believe God can meet you in your darkest hour, sit down beside you on your secondhand couch, and tell you to shape the heck up. Cut the drama, already. There's work to be done, but you've got to drop that torn-up net you're holding and follow Him.

Cory and I have talked about that moment plenty of times, but it felt good to say it all again, in order.

Bubbles blurred the edges of all our words, and there we were; one set of brown eyes, one set of blues. Still locked on each other when common sense would have said otherwise.

God defies gravity, friends.
He laughs at our foolish "logic" and our made-up psychobabble. He holds our world at a scary-sharp angle and says it's level.

What feels real to us often isn't, and only when we take a hard look at His unbending love for us, His endless mercy for us, only when we're so desperate that we actually listen, can we begin to see straight.

That's the kind of weekend I had.

*These are all phone pics, the step ones and selfies courtesy of Cory.


  1. You, dear, sweet, 15-years-married friend, are a phenomena (phenomenon?). Not because of any doings on your own part, I know, but I just... I just love enjoying your words. I love your story, although I try not to romanticize it, try not to forget that its your every day, your grueling, your hard, your dirty, your boring, your normal. Happy belated anniversary, and I'm so glad God cut through your crap :)

  2. Absolutely beautiful......I love your words.....

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  4. This is beautiful. An encouragement and perspective check for this married-2-years girl. :) Congratulations on 15 years!

  5. i just needed to hear this today:
    "See how hard the enemy is fighting to destroy you two? Just imagine what he's scared of. Just imagine the good you'll do with me, together."
    lifted my heart right up to the sky. thank you, shan.

  6. Beautiful! I had 43 years with my dear husband and best friend before he left this planet to be with Jesus. I love 'love stories'. How God brings people together, holds them together, strengthens them, makes their love grow and their light shine.

    I love you two ~ FlowerLady

  7. Lump in my throat reading all of this. Especially, "It would have been foolishness to imagine that our greatest purpose, our near-tangible peace, would look like bits of broken dreams." There are a lot of broken dreams right now in my world - but I'm learning to trust that God is using it for His purposes.

  8. I love when you ramble about things like secondhand clothes and you're messy, imperfect home, but then you go and write words thats shake people to the core and I love it even more.

  9. Beautifully written. Poetically said. And theologically profound. Thank you.

  10. I knew from the first time I saw the two of you together that God had great things in store for you. Rough bumps along the way are to be expected, how else do we learn to trust in the One who knows where we are heading? Happy late anniversary dear ones.

  11. Amen. Amen. Oh, I love this post.

  12. Congratulations! Here's to hot tubs and brokenness. And your ability to weave words into tapestries filled with the beauty of His grace. I could not love you more. Except when I read what you will write tomorrow.

  13. Love this post!! Glad you had a nice weekend away with your hubbers!! Happy Anniversary!! And hey, you were in my neck of the woods!! Climbed them steps many a time, feel the burn baby!!

  14. Happy Anniversary. The little bumps in life make you stronger for sure.

  15. I don't know you, will probably never meet you....but I love you. I love your energy, I love your passion, I love your attitude and I love your heart. The world is a better place because of you. So, all the way from Australia, God bless you and your little family.

  16. i know, right? i know. love you both.

  17. Congratulations on the awesome work of your marriage. It's really inspiring to read about. Even as a single mom - this post speaks to me. It's so easy to get off mission. Or not realize you've been off your mission and then suddenly look around you and realize how far off you've gotten. Sometimes I would really love to have a partner to be in this life with. But I think I could get some good thinking done in a hot-tub underneath the stars all by myself, too.

  18. Wow. I am struggling right now with marriage, and this was a needed boost.

  19. This made me cry. One of my favorite posts you've ever written, especially the part about our foolish logic and God defying gravity. Yes he surely does. Real people, busted-up and made new, point the world to the crazy reality of redemption like nothing else. I'll never be able to get enough of it. Happy anniversary friend.

  20. What a wonderful weekend. I love it when I am at a place in the path that I can reflect on where I have been and the goodness in it. The grace in it. Thanks for sharing.

  21. You so get it, and set a great example through your blog. Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

  22. Happy Anniversary! Sounds like a wonderful weekend. Thank you for sharing your life and your words, they always seem to come at the right time for me. Left me up and feel the grace of God just when i need it most. Thank you for being you. I wish we were neighbors.

  23. I'm a newbie to your blog. It must have been on a quilter friend's blog list since quilters are some of my best buds. I am deeply grateful that God led me to your blog because I don't believe in coincidences. You definitely have a gift for words and putting those words together to almost paint a picture! I am a 41 yr. married lady who remembers struggling in those married years of 9 thru 15. But like you, God had a different plan....., HE told me to get up, put my big girl panties on, grow up and live a life of gratitude. I did and the rest is history. I can't imagine life without the Mr. and all total we are a party of 12! God's Grace is sufficient to meet our every need. I wish the young couples I personally know who are struggling in their marriages right now could read your words. Thank you for sharing. I WILL be back here!
    Gmama Jane

  24. He does things far better than what we can imagine, and how beautiful they are! Love to you guys!

  25. I"m new here as of just the last few weeks but had to say something on this one. Your words are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and congratulations as well. That represents no small amount of work or effort or millions of behind the scenes choices. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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