My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage this week. We did so with little pomp and circumstance. When we first got married I remember talking about extravagant trips when we hit the 25 year mark. Funny how life changes. No extravagant trips. Instead we had a quiet week (our girls have been gone) and spent much of it reflecting on the past, making some decisions for the present and prioritizing for the future. We celebrated with a quiet evening out, thinking how quickly time had passed.
Our marriage is a testament to the grace of God. By all measures, we shouldn’t have made it. We can now laugh about it, but we seriously faced just about every stressor you could face in our first 5 years of marriage. My parents divorced about a year before I got married. That meant lots of emotions running high during the wedding planning and day of. It also meant VERY limited resources and I had to be creative. Two weeks after our honeymoon a cyst was found on my cervix and we went through a “this could be cancerous” scare. Fortunately it was not, but out-patient surgery followed. Within our first 18 months of marriage my mother lived with us and then my brother. Within the first 2 years of marriage Paul’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, we built a home, entered a 6 year long infertility phase, and my mother lived with us again. Paul’s mom passed away shortly after our three year anniversary. My brother lived with us one more time and over the course of the next 15 years my mother lived with us several more times for various lengths of time. The firm Paul had been working for disbanded and we were faced with opening his own appraisal firm.
I won’t bore you with any more details, but as you can see, our marriage was full of stressors at the beginning. I wish I could tell you we handled it all well, but we didn’t. There were arguments. I was on some occasions an emotional wreck. We were hurt, disappointed, angry and often felt alone. So how did we survive? By the grace of God, and a whole lot of humor. I don’t say that tritely. There were moments we both wanted to call it quits. We loved each other, but boy was it hard to like each other some days. Not to mention, we both grew weary. Have you ever been there? You don’t want to give up, but you just honestly don’t have the energy to keep going? My husband, a fixer like most men, felt defeated on many a day. I can remember evenings when we didn’t have the energy or emotional reserves to be happy or angry. There were even moments when the only words we could speak were, “Divorce is not an option.”
Thankfully during those difficult years we also had much to celebrate. We welcomed three nieces/nephews. We built three homes. We had some fabulous vacations with friends. Paul’s business flourished. We worked in the youth department and had lots of entertainment as we served and bonded with those students, many still dear friends. We had a pastor who prayed for us, walked alongside us, and again, became a very special friend. The day we finally arrived at the hospital for an emergency C-section this dear pastor immediately brought his staff and prayed over me and the staff as I was wheeled into surgery.
This week as we looked back, while the difficult times were real and are still vivid in our memories, we were able to think more of the joy, the lessons, the character building. We are able to stand at the 25 year mark truly believing we can survive anything-by the grace of God. We are able to see that while we made decisions to help family too much, financially gave too much, we also see that each decision was made based upon scripture, our desire to honor our mother and father, to care for family, the wounded, the desolate. My husband is so good at staying away from the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thoughts. (unlike myself) My husband is so good at looking to the future with hope, trusting God. Throughout each decision he has always looked me in the eye and said, “He will provide. He always has and He always will. Not necessarily what we want, but it will be what we need and what we can handle.” I married a rock. Sometimes a stubborn rock, but that is another story. I married a rock, a man of faith who gives way more than he takes, who fights for family and lives by faith. He brings laughter into our days and keeps his eye on the prize.
Standing at the 25 year mark feels good. I would love to have taken some of the moments back. I’d love to have NOT experienced some of the experiences. Yet, as we stand together in this place I know we are who we are because of each moment, each experience. I have no doubt we’ll make the next 25 years. I also have no doubt they won’t be easy. I have no doubt we have more trials to face, more heart ache ahead. I also know we have much joy ahead. By the grace of God we’ll carry on.