Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wait, There's More to Marriage Than the Dress??

It has been FIFTEEN YEARS since those sparkly-eyed babies took that photo. I know, you can't believe it because I still look like the 21-almost-22-year old child I was that day. 

Humor me, OK?

I think this post is going to be a little bit reminiscing, a little bit advice, a little bit pondering and processing, a little bit random. So not unlike all the other posts. Also lots more pictures than I planned because I got sucked into looking at our wedding-album-that-could-be-a-coffee-table and am going to share more than you want to see. Quit reading now if you choose. I understand.

Last fall a dear friend was preparing to lead a devotion at her brother's rehearsal dinner, so she asked if I remembered any advice we got way, way back that held true and stuck with us, or something we wish we had known before we wed. 

Someone told us to always sleep together; don't go to the couch, no matter how mad you are and how much you loathe (yes, loathe) the other person.  I can't remember who that was, but if you are reading, well done! Good advice! There is healing in the bump of the knees, the facing each other on the pillow, the flinging of the arm across the other's stomach; the things that naturally occur when two people sleep right next to each other.

I am ashamed to say about a year ago I spent a night on the couch. But that is the only time in 15 years. 

Preston has never gone to the couch, mostly because he is somehow magically wired to shut off his mad and actually GO TO SLEEP and doesn't care that he is sleeping next to the maddest person alive. How does that work? I will huff and puff and throw myself around so he knows I am still awake and still very mad, and he is already asleep, missing my dramatic presentation. Which usually makes me madder. But he has never gone to the couch.

The other thing I kind of rambled on about to my friend was how much better it gets as the years go by. And the reason it gets better is because you know so much more about how awful each of you is!

Hang with me.

On our wedding day, at ages 21 and 24, we thought we knew everything about each other. After all, we had known each other for 2 1/2 years, which is exactly enough time to go through nothing at all, but we knew each other and knew it was going to be amazing. Leave out the "for worse" part please, because it's going to be all sunshine and unicorns over here. We will discuss our disagreements and come to a consensus without ever raising our voices and we will be more in love than ever whence the conversation hath endeth, and we will spend evening after romantic evening gazing into each other's eyes all the way to the depths of our souls, and have meaningful conversations, and we will save a million dollars by the time we are thirty, and we will be The Couple Everyone Else Wants To Be because we will have The Relationship Everyone Else Wants To Have. 


Except not.

Doesn't he look a little like, "Yea, this may not be a good decision..."

What seemed like marriage at age 21 - the dress, the dancing, the prime rib, the cake, the pipe organ, the veil, the tall dark man at the end of the aisle - all the things I dreamed about since birth...that was the wedding. Duh. I had no idea what the marriage would entail. Marriage is more ripped jeans and mac-n-cheese and baseball caps and falling asleep before the dance starts.

I do not care if you marry a giant, do not wear 3 1/2 inch heels on your wedding day.

I can't remember what our first married fight was about, but it was not long after the fairy tale day, and I remember thinking, "Well, this is it. Divorced before our first anniversary. Probably some kind of record." (Actually, I think Britany Spears holds that record with like 50 hours or something, but I did NOT read that on which I do NOT check every single night like it's my job.)

But when the fight was over, we decided to stay. After all, we'd been together, like, 1000 days, and were already in our twenties, for Pete's sake, so if we left our life was over anyways. Might as well tough it out. 

Not a great advertisement for marriage so far.

Have no fear, young, newly engaged, dewy-faced couple.

Because it has ended up so much better than my wildest dreams. 

How, you say? What with the uncivilized fighting, the sleeping on the couch, the tears and the flopping in the bed, the walking (stomping) out, the watching "King of Queens" reruns instead of any conversation, much less meaningful conversation, the driving around town at 1 am so mad you couldn't stay in the house one more is that better than what you expected? The fantasy on the wedding day sounds infinitely better! Unicorns! Sunshine!


When I left to drive around, he watched out the window until I came home.

When I slept on the couch, he crept downstairs and brought me my pillow and covered me with a blanket. 

When he lost his job, I walked beside him and encouraged new dreams.

When we spent our savings, we cut out all but the essentials and learned to appreciate those.

When he didn't know the next step, I supported him and helped him and gave him his confidence back.

When I threw up constantly for 2 1/2 years, he held my hair while praying for it to end, and he lay beside me on the cold bathroom floor while I waited to throw up yet again.

When I was so tired all I could do was sob at the sounds of a waking baby, he dragged his equally exhausted self to the kitchen and warmed a bottle.

When I was desperate and couldn't see a path out of the hole, he came into my sorrow, and then walked out with me. 

When he was desperate and couldn't see a path out of the hole, I came into his sorrow, and then walked out with him.

We have been in the pits with each other, and we have stayed.

That beaming bride up there thinks she really isn't too bad, basically a nice person, and her groom is pretty darn lucky to have her. Married up, in fact. 

But what this bride of fifteen years knows is that I am so much worse than I ever imagined

And Preston stays.

If that isn't grace, I don't know what is. 

Preston has seen me at my dead worst, the very depths of depravity, the innermost part of my soul laid bare, when instead of a helpmate I am in fact a liability. He's been here as the years have passed and three babies have caused stretch marks and scars, and gray hairs,  and a tummy that could never be described as "taut," and the only six-pack is in the fridge. (Come on, Jesus! I am soooo ready for my heavenly body!!!) And by the grace of God, he is staying. Even on the days, or in the weeks or months, when it feels hard, and I have nothing good to offer him...the "for worse" part that wasn't necessary...he stays. 

The beauty of the past fifteen years is so much deeper than the smooth sailing through life I imagined on that perfect March day. So much more beautiful, because of the things we have seen together, and experienced together, and lost together. Beauty I could not have imagined on the day I thought would be the most beautiful. 

I wish I could say the girls made this, but those are all my skills on display there. Don't 

call me for all your cake decorating needs. 

And tonight, as we celebrate fifteen years with the three little lives the Lord has entrusted to us, I pray that should they choose to marry someday, they choose a man who will share the beauty of the ordinary days with them. A man who will stay when they are at their unloveliest, when they are in the throes of post-partum, or when they gain 50 pounds, or when he comes home to a sink overflowing with dishes and toys all over the floor and all four females are crying, or when they lash out when he leaves gum in his pockets which then gets melted onto all the clothes, or when they are bickering and struggling to connect at all, and he will love them anyway because that, that love, that commitment, that staying, is what will show Jesus to them. That is how Christ loves His church. And that is what Preston promised to me in our vows. He actually said it. "I promise to love you as Christ loves the Church." And by God's grace and clinging to Jesus, he is doing it. 

Romantic dinner for five, please.

(Sidebar - Preston isn't perfect and some days I think it's pretty miraculous that I'm staying. If he had a blog or shared his feelings or spoke words I think he would would tell you he feels the same as I feel.) 

All the sparkle and a lot more wrinkles. And a lot less hair. For one of us.

What a picture of the sweetness of the Gospel God laid out when He designed marriage. We are worse than we think. We have nothing, nothing, to offer the Lord. And Jesus says to us, "I have seen all that. I know your worst. Not just the bad stuff but the very worst, ugliest parts of you both. Bring it. Bring your empty hands. I choose you. I love you. I cherish you. And I will always stay." 

What an amazing Bridegroom. And one day, what a wedding feast we will have!

Grace for Newlyweds and Golden Couples,

P.S. The advice portion: the thing that really makes me stay is that Preston brings me coffee in bed every morning. This makes me feel loved beyond almost anything else he could do, as I cannot function or speak words or do all the things or any of the things until I have had coffee. A simple act that means so much to me. Everyone has one. Find your honey's "coffee."  


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