Riddle me this, darling, when was the last time you thanked the Lord for your problems?
No, that’s not a typo. I’m serious! When was the last time you thought about how crazy, insane, lucky you are to have the problems that you have?
I would say that I spend about 50% of my gratitude on the obvious blessings in my life, and 50% on the blessings in disguise. I don’t remember to “count my blessings”- disguised or otherwise- nearly as often as I would like to claim, but I am acutely aware of the fact that God has given me a lot of story to share with others.
And considering I’m a story-teller, of sorts, that’s a pretty great thing to have.
So let me tell you the weird love story of us…
It’s not what you think it is. I get a lot of “you guys are just the perfect couple” comments and I have to say, as much as I love and adore this man beside me, our perfection ends at our shared love of shoes.
Yes. I did get him to love shoes. Yes. That does make me proud. No. He won’t admit to it.
What if I told you, on this, our 8 year anniversary, that we almost didn’t make it to year 7? What if I told you that this past summer we were still throwing the D word around like confetti on NYE? What if I told you that we almost became a statistic? What if I told you that I was nearly devastated when we first found out we were pregnant in the winter of 2015 because we weren’t sure we even wanted to be together anymore?
You might be enticed to scroll back through my Facebook posts and try to find the “signs” you missed. Let me save you the trouble: you won’t find any. As real as I try to keep it, I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I was failing in my marriage. It was an unbearable shame that I chose not to share. It was dark, and heavy, and secretive.
Thank you Jesus that I felt so broken down and helpless. Thank you Lord that I had nothing left of myself to give. Thank you God that I was hopeless, desperate, and forced to relinquish all of my control.
It was our utter defeat that brought us to our victory.
It was only by the grace of God.
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”
Allow me to share the journey that brought us to the day that everything changed. Because there was a day. There was praying, and crying, and anguish, and resentment, and bitterness, and love, and lost love, and then…after all of that…there was a day that everything changed. #hallelujah
In the fall of 2015, Travis and I contemplated divorce for the first time, seriously. It was a culmination of a life of self-abuse really, and every problem and persistent trail we consistently faced was a result of- or inspired by- alcohol. Seriously. And looking back on my entire adult, binge drinking life… every problem I ever had (with the law and otherwise) was a result, either directly or indirectly, of drinking too much too often.
Awesomely, somewhere deep inside of me, a seed had long ago been planted. It was a seed I never gave any thought to, but it was there. Because when I realized we actually were on the brink of calling it quits, we made one final desperate attempt to fix us. I suggested we start going to church and changing our lives for real or we may as well part ways.
I don’t know why church felt like the answer at the time, except to say, Holy Spirit was watering that seed and making it grow. I had no reason to turn to church, I hadn’t been a church goer all of my life. I knew of Jesus, but I didn’t know Jesus. I was saved by definition, but not by action. Yet, for whatever reason, it felt like that was the place to end up if not ending up there meant ending altogether.
Said another way? If God can’t fix it can’t nobody fix it.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
We got pregnant a couple months later, and I thought that meant we were fixed. I was scared; I felt as trapped as I felt excited about another child. But then we lost that baby. To be honest, our loss brought us closer together. In March, we were baptized together. For awhile, it felt like we had weathered the storm and come out better than ever.
But we were still drinking. And where there is alcohol, in our world, there is massive discontent, disappointment, and depression. After a second miscarriage, the brand new tapestry of our marriage began to unravel once more. Old hurts resurfaced as new hurts piled on. The devil saw us licking our wounds and decided to inflict new ones.
It wasn’t that we were faking anything, we were just struggling silently together. We went on with the show: we showed up to church, we served on serve teams, we joined a bible study group, etc. On paper, we were checking off boxes and looking like how brand new shiny Christians should look.
There was so much hurt, friend. We had hurt ourselves and hurt each other, and we didn’t know what to do with all that lay between us. We tread lightly the waters of our broken past, wondering why the waves were destroying the beautiful, wonderful, amazing house we had built on sand.
If you’re going through a tough time right now, I need to stop here and just offer some encouragement: keep fighting. Keep going. Keep looking to God because He is listening. Keep striving to know Him more, keep expecting Him to show up in your life, keep taking steps in the right direction- the one that leads you to Him. Because you never know when He’s going to change it all.
It felt like everything changed on July 11, 2016. But really, we were changing and softening our hearts for months prior to that. We walked with God, we crawled with Him when we had to, but we pressed forward in confident hope that He wouldn’t let us fail.
1 Corinthians 13:8 “Love never fails.”
That’s not love as we know love. That’s love like God’s love.
Not worldly, I love you because you’re so pretty and you like reading and I like reading so we’re perfect for each other, love.
But God’s, you can neither earn nor lose my love for you because it is a love without condition; I love you because you are and I am, love.
On July 8, I changed my prayer. For months, I had been praying to God for a sign on whether or not to stay in my marriage (quick little note, God will never tell you to leave your marriage. It’s in the bible, and if you believe one part of the bible, you must believe it all. I do not judge anyone who’s been divorced, I’m only suggesting that God would never give you a sign to choose that path); so on July 8th, I began to pray for reconciliation.
2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.”
For nine months, I prayed for a sign.
But two days after I prayed for reconciliation, God handed us our blessing.
On July 11, I was home and Travis was at work. I was watching Golden Girls because I was battling depression (it’s no wonder!) and I spent a lot of my time in front of the tv back then. It was around 11am- facts like this never evade my memory, plus it’s an important fact for this story of ours- when I felt prompted to pause my show and write Travis a letter.
Big surprise that I express myself through writing, eh? I mean, even as a kid, if there was something I wanted to plead my case about (a puppy comes to mind), I would write my parents a note.
Anyways, I wrote him a letter. And then I gave it all to God and I mean, ALL to God. I spent the rest of the afternoon upstairs in my bed, sleeping and crying interchangeably, and waited for him to come home and read it.
I needed to hear him say something.
God knew that’s what I needed to hear him say.
Travis came home, read the letter, came upstairs, and said it.
And just like that, instantly after 10 months of striving, we were restored.
Friend, can I tell you that life hasn’t been the same since? A month later we gave up drinking. Three months later we were pregnant again, happily and excitedly. And through what ended up being our third and truly devastating miscarriage of the year, we were brought even closer. To each other, and to God.
It just keeps getting better.
Oh, by the way, that I stopped to write my letter at 11am? Travis told me, before I ever indicated when I wrote the letter, that on his lunch break at 11am he prayed that God would tell him what to do or what to say to make this work. I just got goosebumps all over again, typing that out.
So why? Why would I take the day that is about celebrating our love to share our most painful secret and hardest challenge?
Because that’s what love is, girlfriend. That’s what love is about.
It isn’t the sweet, glitter covered feelings you start out with. It’s the grit of living with someone you don’t really like sometimes. It’s the grind of holding hands even while your heart resents the hand you’re holding. It’s the commitment to not give up on one another at the same time. It’s the sweat and the tears and the nights when you dream about leaving and the mornings when you resign yourself to staying. It’s the decision to forgive. It’s the choice to offer grace.
It’s being so defeated by your humanness that you ask God to fill in the cracks of your shattered dreams with His holiness.
It’s bearing scars and calling them beautiful.
It’s living in pain and calling it purposeful.
It’s walking out of the storm and only seeing the rainbow.
It’s having butterflies when you celebrate your 8th anniversary by remembering how you almost didn’t celebrate your 7th.
Travis T, you are worth it. Every moment, every lesson, every challenge, every smile, every tear, every heartache, every moment of bliss… you are mine and I am yours. And Raegan will grow to see love not as a feeling but as a decision. Our legacy is our marriage, our blessing is our unity, our joy is our life together. No, we are not the perfect couple. But we are made perfect in His sight, as we rebel against societal norms and fight every day, side by side, for our love. Our true love.
I love you. Even when you’re annoying and leave the cupboard doors open, I choose to love you still. Happy 8 years!
I leave you with this, friend:
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.”
Can you relate to this in any way? Have you felt the hope of God restore your relationship?