18 years ago, on June 1st, Dominic and I stood before a group of our family and friends and vowed to God and one another that we would keep the sacred bond of marriage. The picture above was always a favorite of mine because it was the first picture taken as we walked out of the church as husband and wife.
When my dad gave me away in the ceremony, he took both of our hands and said that he had just one piece of advice for us. “Never, never, never give up.”
It was beautiful and I was sure that we would do just that. Divorce wasn’t a word that had been spoken in our families, so it wasn’t a concern.
But if you would have asked me 10 years ago if we would be this close to celebrating a 20 year anniversary, I would have probably said that you were crazy. What started out as excitement, joy and a bit of nervousness turned quickly into high and often unmet expectations, frustration, bitterness and resentment for both of us.
Marriage is tough isn’t it?!
Marriage can be difficult even when you do things the “right” way…you know courtship, down-on-one-knee proposal, wedding and then kids. But when you enter into marriage in a more, ahem, unconventional way…pregnancy and then marriage – well let’s just say that it isn’t an easy way to start.
I have said before that we were ill-equipped to be parents much less husband and wife. We just had no idea how much grace and forgiveness, how much release of selfishness would be needed to make a marriage successful!
There were times that I was certain that even God couldn’t fix the hurt we had heaped onto one another. And while the idea to “never give up” seemed like the wise choice, I can say that I wanted to run at the first sign of trouble.
I didn’t know how to handle the conflict we faced and divorce became a common threat used in my vocabulary. Because threatening people with an ultimatum and not following through time and time again is a wonderful way to build trust and closeness isn’t it?!
For years we struggled. We didn’t communicate well and I became angry and bitter. Disrespectful is a mild description of the way and manner that I treated Dominic on most days. It really is a miracle that we are still married today…
Oh how I love the stories that have a But God moment in them, don’t you?!
All those years that I thought God had abandoned us, He was right there. We were the ones that had turned from Him!
And about 8 years ago we both came to that breaking point. That place where one is finally willing to let go and let God work – to do whatever it would take to see change happen.
And God showed up in a BIG way.
Hearts softened, forgiveness was given and received, selfishness was put aside and things began to change. (<==== Click to Tweet)
This change was slow and painful at times. Someone once told me that it takes years to cause the damage and we can’t expect that just because we become willing to change, that our lives will be roses from that moment on.
And it is true!
But God was there in the smallest details. He put people in our lives to support and encourage us. We had people praying for us, others that would listen to us complain and justify and then gently help us see a Godly perspective of how marriage and relationship should be.
It was, and continues to be, hard work.
But I have found that it is in those difficult times that I am seeking God more, relying on Him for strength, and I desire to give Him the praise and the glory for any transformation that occurs.
On Sunday we had the amazing opportunity to share some of our story with our congregation at church. I couldn’t help thinking the entire time that it was all God. The reason we could even be up on that stage was His doing.
He made the change possible. God’s grace towards us is the reason that we have learned how to give grace to one another. His forgiveness of our sins the example we use to forgive each other.
Today we celebrate 18 years. While they haven’t always been “easy”…ok they haven’t ever been easy! 🙂 But we have grown and matured, we have found in the last 8 years a personal relationship with a God that has blessed us time and time again. And we are teaching our kids that God is God even when life isn’t perfect. And He is worthy to be praised!
I am so grateful for Dominic, for his patience and love on all of the days that I am not very lovable. I am thankful that God has transformed our marriage, allowing us to work together and raise a family. We are blessed.