Tag Archives: marriage

The First Song


VHS

Dominic discovered our wedding videos several months ago, the old VHS tapes that have been stored and saved and unwatched for years. He thought it might be fun to convert them to a DVD so that we could watch them again and found someone that could do that as a surprise for me.

A few nights ago we sat down together to watch it. It was something that we both really needed to see again. I can’t remember the last time we watched it…maybe 10 years ago? We are coming up on 20 years of marriage and it is sad how much about that day I have forgotten.

Seeing family and friends that we haven’t seen in years, some now gone from our lives…it was bittersweet hearing their voices and seeing their smiles.

It was interesting to see the events of the day through a different lens. Apparently there were 2 cameras set up, one at the back of the church and another at the front. Wear, time, maybe heat exposure had damaged the VHS of one of the views. It was distorted and blurry. Thankfully the view from the front was still in tact.

One thing that I remembered from the wedding was that my sister sang a song for us. We were married young (21) and my sister was just 16. She was always involved in show choir or music of some sort and had a powerful voice for a young girl. And the bravery it took to sing in front of that many people, at that age…is amazing.

We have talked about that song over the years because she had a hard time getting through it. I hadn’t remembered the specific details, but knew she cried during the song and she was so upset afterwards because she thought she had ruined my wedding. (She didn’t)

I never felt that way….I remember being touched that she was emotional about my wedding. I wasn’t the best sister…no strike that, I probably would have gotten an F for sister kindness. She was young enough that I didn’t really take the time to get to know her. We didn’t have this wonderful sister bond growing up…so knowing she was crying over me was really special.

As we watched the video I can see why it was hard for her. The song came right after we had lit the unity candle. We then walked down so that we could present roses to both of our parents. So as she started to sing, she also had to watch as we hugged our parents. It was an emotional moment, and completely understandable that she might have been crying watching that.

But here is what I had long forgotten about that day.

There was another song. A first one actually. A song that she sang at the very beginning of the wedding after we all walked into the church. It was strong and beautiful, and yet I had forgotten. How could I forget that bravery…why had we remembered the struggle and not the beauty?

As I was thinking about that this morning I realized that I do this in so many ways.

I have memories from certain situations or circumstances, and so often I only remember the negative parts…even when there is beauty interwoven throughout, I forget that.

Why do we do this? Why do I do this?

I look through life with a distorted lens.

I see the hurt or the embarrassment, the shame I felt, or the anger.  Those become my core memories and all the good, all the happy moments, become less and less. It isn’t that they aren’t there…but I am not allowing myself to see them.

I want to start to see my life through a new lens.

I want to look back at my life and see that yes, there were times of hurt or pain, but they were also filled with beauty and hope. And I need to spend more time focusing on the good than how I felt about the bad.

So many of my memories are wrapped around how I felt at that particular moment. If I didn’t feel good….then I allow that feeling to take over, to become the predominant memory I have.

Pretty soon I am unable to see the good, my vision is clouded and blurred…it is distorted.

Thankfully I know today that I can make a choice to try and see the whole picture, to remember everything and then choose to have a right focus. To see opportunities for growth, to see bravery that wasn’t acknowledged before, to seek out the positive and let that be my focus.

It’s always been there, but I haven’t been willing or able to see it.

Today I am choosing to see, to remember the first song and be grateful that. I am walking forward today with a new hope. I have seen how God has taken my broken pieces and made them whole again…yet I stumble through life with the baggage of my mistakes, unwilling and unable to let them go.

Yes, I am still a broken woman. There are still hurts that I need healing from, and pain I have caused that needs forgiveness…but I don’t have to define my life by my struggle. Instead I am bringing all of me to my God and asking Him to use each part, each moment for His glory.

And I am hopeful that the song that will come from the good and the bad, will be beautiful.

Walking in Forgiveness

Path to forgivenessOh friends how I miss this space at times.

I miss writing here, miss sharing my heart…my summer has been filled with fun and not-so-fun moments, and with preparations to send our oldest to college in 15 days, seriously where has the time gone?!

I am not sure that my heart is ready for the change.

And isn’t that the way with so many things? Life, reality, comes at us and we have to deal with it regardless if we are prepared or not.

And as a girl who doesn’t like change, or things out of her control…well this can be a bit of a tough road to go down!

I don’t know why God felt that 2015 needed to be the year of all the lessons. I mean really, one good one would have been plenty for this girl…but it has been chock full of learning and growing.

Most days I probably grumble more than I should.

Many days I focus on the pain of the stretching and not the beauty of new growth.

But every once and awhile I get it…it is a light bulb moment and change happens, and that is what I want to share with you today.

I have vaguely shared that for many years Dominic and I struggled in our marriage. I haven’t shared lots of details, but married life didn’t start out easy.

We jumped right in as young adults into a big world of expectations and we both got burned in the process.

On our wedding day, as my dad gave me away, he told us both to never, never, never give up.

It made me cry and I thought that it was beautiful.

And then I got angry at Dominic for something and wanted to run.

I am not sure where that all comes from really…I need some good therapy to figure it all out. But when things get hard and uncomfortable – I want out!

Very early on I established a pattern in our marriage. It was a damaging and awful path to be on and I walked in it for years. Divorce was a swear word and I used it with a vengeance.

Make me angry, I threaten you with everything that should be secure….family, home, our relationship. It didn’t matter if I really meant it or not. I got mad and opened my mouth and out spewed unmatched ugliness.

Can I just pause and say here that this is NOT where I thought I was headed with this post when I started writing it…that being said I am going to keep walking this out as I feel God is maybe giving me the words for someone who needs to hear them.

In my Hello Mornings study we have been reading through James and yikes can I say that it is a tough one to read when there are so many things that I can personally relate to.

So to lay it all out there…me mad = many people hurt by my actions/words.

I used my words as a weapon time and time again. And Dominic received the worst of it.

And I always felt justified. The conversation in my head always went something like this…

“Well if he wouldn’t have done/said xyz…then I wouldn’t have gotten angry.”

So in my mind it was never my fault. (I see the error in my thinking now, but this has been a struggle for YEARS and it caused so much hurt.)

I became an expert at the silent treatment. Even when forgiveness was asked, and I “granted” it (even though I should have been doing the asking) I would drag out my punishment for days being silent and cold.

Sounds like a wonderful, inviting home doesn’t it?!

We went around and around in this cycle for way too long.

Yes several years ago there was some significant restoration and healing…but bad behaviors are hard to break, especially for someone like me. And walking in true forgiveness wasn’t something that I had mastered.

I forgave with conditions.

I never let go, never took full responsibility for my part….I have been walking in chains and so desperately want freedom.

A few weeks ago Dominic and I had a really great conversation. It was one of those unplanned, deep talks that led to a frank discussion about forgiveness.

Dominic used himself as an example saying things like “at times I do this and say I forgive you, but I don’t really and I hold a grudge….” Everything that he said was something that I should and could say as well. We both do it and it isn’t healthy.

And then he said “We have got to say we forgive one another and then walk forward like we actually do.”

No more I forgive you but….

I forgive you but I am going to remain guarded and distant.

I forgive you but I am going to remember this for next time.

I forgive you but only after I have punished you for a time first.

We have walked that path for longer than we ever should have.

And so that night we committed to walking a new path.

A path of true forgiveness.

It has been a little silly around our house as a result.

Arguing and hurt feelings happen. We are flawed human beings…so now we say “I forgive you” immediately.

Forgiveness is flying around like crazy. I will admit it has become a bit of a joke (sometimes he forgives me for forgiving him), but we are practicing it every day. 🙂

There will be a time where one of us hurts the other. It is inevitable. And as a woman with all.the.feelings., well Dominic just has to look at me sideways on the wrong day and I could get all twisted up.

But if it happens, I will choose to walk in forgiveness.

I will say it and then act like I mean it.

I will not hold a grudge.

I will not threaten our marriage.

I will not give the silent treatment.

He deserves better than that and so do I!

We have a choice to walk in freedom on the path of forgiveness. (<====Click to Tweet)

There is a lightness in my step as a result.

I still have LOTS of issues that I need to deal with, my anger first and foremost at the front…but I have confidence that there will be freedom there as well.

As my dear friend Marlene told me “God has given me the key to freedom…I just need to choose to walk in that freedom.”

So I am marching ahead. Want to join me?!

Joining the beautiful writers over at Jennifer’s place #TellHisStory

Photo Credit: agnivohneb

When You Don’t Have a Romantic “Proposal Story”, and Why it is OK.

Proposal

Dominic was at a small group the other day with some men from church. At some point the leader asked everyone to go around the room and share their “proposal story.” These types of prompts can be difficult for us because the reality is we don’t have one.

I have shared here before a little about the path we started out on. It wasn’t easy. When we share our story our hope is that others will see how God used us, even in our sin, for His glory.

We were selfish and self-centered and made adult choices that had big consequences. We were in the camp of “that won’t ever happen to me”…so it was a complete shock when I found out I was pregnant my junior year of college.

The day I found out I called Dominic and we had a conversation. He told me that the best choice was that we get married and take care of our new responsibility.

That was it. No roses or romantic dinner out, no shopping for rings and no down-on-one-knee proposal. We had a conversation and based on our situation made a choice, made a commitment to one another.

But every girl dreams of that romantic proposal, don’t they?

I can’t say I feel cheated necessarily, but I do feel sad that because of our choices, we didn’t get to do it the “right” way. Even Dominic said that he wished that things could have been done differently.

Sin does that though, it robs us of what is best for us.  And while a lasting marriage isn’t contingent on the proposal, it is a fun story that is shared over and over.

And as a girl who loves a good story…well it is frustrating that I don’t have one to share in this area.

As I was thinking about it the other night though I recognized that I did have a proposal story. It isn’t what one typically shares at bridal showers, but it is beautiful and romantic in its own way. And it is a proposal that I continue to live out day after day.

Jesus said “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…” 1 John 3:16

In one of the most amazing acts of courtship, Christ came to woo each of us to Him. (<====Click to Tweet)

He called us by name, He showed us what true, unconditional love looks like. And then instead of getting down on one knee, He stretched His arms out wide, bore nails in his wrists, and died for each and every sin that we would commit.

All He asks is that we believe in Him, put our faith in Him…and we are promised eternal life.

All too often I am looking at Dominic to be my Jesus.

I want him to fulfill every need that I have. Meet my unrealistic expectations and act perfectly. Things he can’t possibly do. None of us can.

If my happiness is based on Dominic meeting some impossible standard that I have set for him, then I will likely find myself bitter and resentful. The same could be said for him as well. We are human, we fail each other all the time!

God knew we couldn’t be perfect, we couldn’t do it all…and He knew I wasn’t capable of unconditional love.

So He sent a bridegroom that was.

Each and every day I am grateful for that proposal. His gift of grace allows me to live my life with grace for others. I don’t do it perfectly, ever. But I don’t have to.

There is freedom in that isn’t there?!

So while I won’t ever have the fairy-tale “worldly” proposal to share at bridal showers….I know that I am a part of a much bigger, romantic story. Written in the pages of the Bible. And for that I am truly grateful.

Photo Credit: mikecogh

18 Years and Counting…

Anniversary

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?!

Sigh…

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…

But God

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.

Layers Unfolding

Birch 4

I love the birch tree that is in our front yard. It has always been a thing of beauty to me. While I typically picture the birch as a tall straight trunk this one is different…unique in its own way.

In the mornings when I do my bible study I often just enjoy the view of this beautiful tree. A few days ago I was resting after lunch and noticed all of the different layers that were bending away from the main trunk.

A few spots were especially raw and the bark that was exposed underneath was a lighter color. The kids at one point this spring took to pulling on that bark and tearing it away when it wasn’t ready.

I find myself doing the same in my own life at times . Wanting so bad to find the new skin under the old, I tear away at the layers of who I am and find that it is too soon, too raw and I am not ready for the change.

Dominic and I will celebrate our 18 year anniversary in a little over a week. It just so happens that we have been asked by our pastor to share our testimony on that very Sunday in church. Sharing where we have been, what has changed, and where we still struggle today. Oh and all in the span of about 20 minutes. If you know my husband and I you know that we aren’t short on words so getting it all in will be just short of a miracle in itself! 😉

I have been thinking a lot about what best to share so that God gets the glory. There are so many miracles that have occurred in our relationship because of Gods intervention and yet, still so much change and growth that needs to occur inside of me.

I would like to say that I am not at all a reflection of the person I once was. Angry and bitter, resentful and vengeful and feeling oh so holy.

But the truth is that even though there have been so many changes, there are still areas of bondage that I struggle with.  Yes God has slowly peeled back layers to reveal a new creation because of His hand …. But I am not fully complete yet that is where I struggle the most.

Specifically, I am not good about taking responsibility for my poor behavior. I can point out the negatives in someone else real easy. Just ask Dominic he has had the unfortunate “opportunity” to experience it firsthand. I can justify my choices based on something that has no relevance to the situation. And make excuses for why it isn’t ever my “fault”.

It isn’t right and it is a repeating sin in my life that is becoming all too burdensome.

I want freedom.

I want to rip off the old layers and find the new underneath.

But am I ready for real change? Is my heart in the right place? Have I truly brought it to the alter, willing to do whatever it takes to find freedom once and for all?

I believe that God can deliver us from those things that keep us in bondage. Fears, addictions, anger and resentments. I have seen God work in amazing ways in the lives of people around me.

So why not me? Why after almost 18 are there still areas that haunt me?

I have to believe that I haven’t been fully ready to shed the old because it is comfortable. Sure my behavior gets me in trouble every once and awhile, but who is it hurting really and aren’t there so many worse things out there that I am not doing?

Is it really all that bad?

The answer is yes. Especially if it hurts the people closest to me that I love.

And you know what? I don’t have the easy answer on how to change. I know that with God all things are possible. So I am giving myself, my sins, my justifications, and my anger…giving it all to God.

I am praying that He will remove the layers that need to go in His time. I am asking that what is found underneath any bad be filled with the full knowledge of His grace. That I would be a reflection of Him through me so that I couldn’t take credit for the transformation.

Because I want you to see Him when you see me.

God is the reason I have the ability to pour into these pages here. He is the reason I find myself typing frantically on the notes page of my cell phone at 11:42pm because this message here is His not mine!

I believe that no matter what is holding you or I in bondage today can be loosed and set free by the power of the Almighty! We just need to be the least bit willing to let Him do the refining, no matter how long it takes.

I think we will find that what is underneath is strong and beautiful. And He does it all because of His great love for us.

Don’t be discouraged friend. Start praying over those areas you want freedom in and be ready to give Him the glory as the transformations occur!

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