Quarantinaversary

Today is our 14 year anniversary. We will happily postpone our celebration until we can do something special, i.e. without children. How special it will be to celebrate after this quarantine is over!

I watched the wedding of a girl I used to baby-sit a few weeks ago on Facebook Live. They were unable to have the wedding they had planned due to the virus, but she had moved her wedding date up so her dad could walk her down the aisle. He has been in treatment for stage 4 colon cancer. He was a youth pastor in Springfield, and I worked for him for a few months during and after college. As I watched him walk her down the aisle and then perform the ceremony, it was such an emotional moment.

I listened closely to the wedding message as his marriage to his beautiful wife and my friend is one I have admired for two decades now. He talked to the newlyweds about how to relate to each other when life gets hard, and it will get hard. He talked about being grateful, and as I listened I thought about how God has been teaching me that very lesson for the length of my marriage as well.

I thought I was in good shape getting married at 28. I figured I knew a lot more than the kids who get married at 20, 21, 22. But as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. I had an expectation that because I had made some great choices and had followed God’s plan for my life as a single, I thought that I would be rewarded with a perfect(ish) marriage. I forgot we were both human. Sinners. People with flaws joining their lives together is a recipe for some conflict. I didn’t talk about this expectation nor was it at the forefront of my mind. It lingered around the edges, tempting me with unhappiness and frustration at every turn. God used a lot of unpleasant, frustrating, devastating circumstances to strip away the fluff and show me the truth: I didn’t deserve anything. Marriage isn’t easy for anyone, and as I let God reshape me personally, I saw my perception of marriage change as well. Is it about what I can get? Or what I can give? Is it about who is doing their part? Or is it about doing everything I can no matter what he does?

The more I grew, the more I saw all I have to be grateful for in life and in marriage. I am not the woman I was 14 years ago. I could wish away the struggles, the hard years and the time I spent clinging to what I wanted instead of letting go and taking what God wanted to give me. But I don’t wish it away because every bit of it has brought me to today, to being able to be grateful for 14 years and 3 kids and life doesn’t look like what I planned or dreamed 14 years ago. It is much better than I could have put together, because the One who knows us best put it all together. He is still fitting the pieces in place, but I am so grateful I can rest in knowing that He loves me, He is for me and my husband and my marriage and my family.

Happy 14 years, Matt. The best is yet to come. I know it is. ❤️ I love you.

Thirteen Years

February 14. Of course, I have many thoughts about this day, but this year I am particularly reminded of February 14, 2002. My dad helped me pack up every last belonging in my little apartment, and we drove from Springfield, MO, to Waverly, IA. A few men from the church met us at my new apartment and helped unload my stuff (thank God, because my dad’s back was hurting, which is in no way related to my stockpiling tendencies or the two flights of stairs down which every possession of mine were carried).

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My last day in the Springfield apartment! February 14, 2002

I cannot begin to recall every emotion of leaving a place I had grown to call home for 7 years, of leaving two amazing sisters and friends I loved dearly and venturing to a small town in which I knew 3 people. Not even a handful. I simply adored my youth pastors Jim and Sharon Brewer (still do), and when the door opened to work with him at his church in Waverly, I knew that was my next step. I expected to live here for a couple of years and then move on to something “cooler,” or at least a bigger city with better shopping.

Fast forward thirteen years. I am still here. I am married (I was pretty certain THAT would never happen in this tiny town). I have two little ones and one on the way. It boggles my mind to think of the steps that occurred to get me from miserable, lonely single woman searching for something better to overwhelmed, exhausted wife and mother who can barely remember the days of singleness even when they were the bane of my existence. It’s true. I didn’t believe my friends who said, “You won’t remember what it was like to NOT have kids.” Seriously? I won’t remember our fun days of traveling and doing whatever we wanted at any time of the day? Okay, I do remember them faintly. But they barely seem possible in light of my current reality.

What happened in thirteen years? I think what didn’t happen would be easier to list here. I have felt heights of joy I never knew possible. I have experienced soul-crushing heartbreak that literally took my breath away. I have felt used by God in the greatness of ministry and relationships. I have felt completely alone and wondered if God had a clue what I was going through in my misery. I have made friends with deeper connections than I ever thought possible, friends who held me and loved me when no one else knew my pain. I have said good-byes that ripped out my heart and every hope and dream I thought mattered.

Who am I after thirteen years? The changes are both minuscule, tiny little differences that others might never notice, and at the same time they are huge shifts in the way I live, love, and relate to those around me. I understood so little about grace and God’s great love thirteen years ago. I have much more to learn, so very much. I am so grateful for how far He has brought me in this faith journey. I look forward to sharing the big and small ways in which God has opened my eyes to see Him more clearly. He has never let me go. He has made a way where there seemed to be no way.

Today as I thought about the past thirteen years, I smiled to think of the next thirteen years. It is a different season right now, different than I have ever been in and different than I ever thought it would be. Marriage, motherhood, raising children as my life right now…even if someone told me the “real” story about this life, this season, I would never have believed it. I have so many dreams, thoughts, ideas, and even plans for the next thirteen years. They are tucked away in my heart, many days they are not brought out at all. Other days, the longing for dreams to come true is physically painful. God knows them all, just as He knew everything that was in my heart thirteen years ago on this day. My heart soars to think of all the next thirteen years could contain. I know the dark days will come as well, but I also know the God who walks through each of them with me.

With that, I start my new blog! I would love for you to join me as I look forward to writing about marriage, motherhood, faith, ministry, and all the mess and beauty they contain.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

I sang this in church on Sunday morning, and it seems fitting for this day and this post of reflection.