Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Twenty Years And Counting!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV 

Twenty years ago, on a hot, hot summer day, I got into a hot air balloon with the man I love and said "I do".  We did not yet know the fullness of the grace and mercy of our God, yet still chose Colossians 3:12-14 to be read as a key part of our ceremony.  Having vowed to clothe ourselves in love and compassion, our whole lives stood before us.  I remember telling my husband, "I can't wait to discover life with you!"  Little did I know what that truly meant back then.

In my mind, discovering life together meant having adventures of a recreational kind, and those we did have.  Water skiing, cross country skiing, attending jazz concerts and winning the trip of a lifetime to a 5 star resort on Puerto Rico were all part of our experience.  He stood by me as I worked full-time and tested for my investment broker's license.  I stood by him as he experienced the many challenges of owning a small retail business.  We were living large and had little need for God beyond our casual church attendance.

God truly got our attention and became the third person in our marriage when we began trying to build a family.  We were first invited to a Bible study after I had encountered a second miscarriage.  In different ways and time frames, we each invited Christ into our lives in a new and deeper way.  Life changed drastically because of that step of faith.

While we had a new, eternal hope, life got even harder.  We discovered we had infertility issues and would only become parents by God's hand.  The amount of money spent and heartbreaking treatment endured took a heavy toll on us.  But the Lord, in His infinite mercy, blessed us with our eldest child fifteen-and-a-half years ago.  Although she brought great joy to our hearts, we were under immense pressure as we discovered that someone who worked for my husband was robbing him blind.  Despite our best efforts to discover who it was, we came up empty.  With our first child just under a year old, we sold the business, never knowing that employers aren't tremendously fond of hiring people who once worked for themselves.  The sale of the business began a period of time where my husband found himself between jobs five times over seven years.  The financial crisis this triggered was beyond words.  It was by the grace of God alone that we did not lose everything we had.

During that stretch of time, special needs made its first appearance in our lives.  I can still see the look of my husband's broken heart showing on his distressed, discolored face when we found out we had a son with severe hemophilia.  And ten years ago, when our youngest came into our lives, the frustrations and stress grew over her first six years until we began receiving some definitive diagnoses for her.  The journey of managing our children's disorders has not relented.  Hospitalizations and difficulties are just members of our family these days.

Many, many other trials have buffeted us as a couple.  Loss of parents, personal illnesses and other challenges have not spared us. There is frequently tension and frustration between us.  We don't even like each other at times.  Still, we have a peace that surpasses all understanding and a glue that holds us together through it all.

So, how can a couple find laughter and contentment together in spite of a journey like this?  There are several things we would both say that are essential to our solid-yet-imperfect marriage.  First, we walk through it with the Lord as our third partner.  During those times where we can barely keep it together as a couple, God reminds us to love one another as He has loved each of us.  Second, we try to walk in humility.  Daily, often even hourly, we are quick to apologize or yield to each other.  We have buried much of our pride and know that neither of us is always right.  Third, we value perseverance.  If the difficulties of our lives have taught us anything, it is that life is an endurance race.  We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and just keep going, even when the going gets tough.  Fourth, we build one another up as a team.  There have been so many times over the past twenty years where it has felt like us against the world.  But knowing we have one person who is our biggest cheerleader, who stands behind us through good and bad makes all the difference.  Fifth, we take turns with managing the children's health.  While I still handle the majority of the children's medical care as their mother, we are deliberate about alternating who infuses our son, both attending IEP and clinic meetings, and ordering our kids' medications.  Sixth and certainly not least, we treasure the sweet moments together.  There are life experiences and memories that only we two share.  My husband sweetly detailed many of them in the card he gave me for this anniversary.  Remembering that we have been blessed with many good times together as a couple helps to shrink the size of the tough times in our lives.

The past twenty years haven't been easy, but they have been deeply satisfying.  Marriage is a partnership formed and blessed by God.  It's worth the effort a couple puts forth, if they keep their eyes on Him.

PRAY:  Lord, you gave us the gift of marriage.  Help us to not abuse that gift or take it for granted.  When I become self focused, remind me to clothe myself in compassion and love my spouse as You have loved me.

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