This was not a well-thought out, planned ahead theme week! It was a spur of the moment, #thatsoundslikeagoodideainmyhead, kind of week. Each night I go to bed thinking, "I have no idea what to write about tomorrow" and I pray for inspiration.
Each day, that inspiration has shown up in some form! On Monday, inspiration showed up on my Facebook Feed as a picture of the longest married couple in America. On Tuesday, inspiration came from the changing season right outside my window.
Today, I feel like the dreary, rainy weather has pushed my thoughts toward a subject that is a hard part of marriage: Suffering.
I don't know about you, but speaking the line "For better or for worse" sparked a little fear in my heart. I think the majority of marriages are a blissful high of happiness and hope. The brand new married couple holds all the opportunities for the future right in their grasp. There are many, many happy times but, at some point in every marriage, the other side of life shows up for a season.
Getting married very young had it's own struggles as Jay and I started out our married life. We had to figure out how to be adults and parents all at the same time. College, working part time, 3 babies in 3 years, and grad school for Jay made our first 6 years of marriage go by in a whirlwind. The order in which we did things made life more challenging then it could have been, but somehow, God worked it all out!
Then came 1998.
That was the year Jay was finishing up graduate school with an MS in physical therapy. June was graduation and we were hopeful a real job would follow! Finally, after years of hard work and help from our families we would be financially independent and moving on in our grown-up lives!
Mike started pre-school in the Fall of 1997, so our days in 1998 started to take on a little more order and consistency. With an almost 3 year old and an almost 2 year old at home, things were a little easier. And I was pregnant...with our first daughter! The future we dreamed of was almost ready to start.....
....or so we thought.
In 1998, the last semester of Jay's program was made up of 3 clinicals. His first placement was a nightmare. The woman PT and her supervisor had an obvious issue with men and made his life miserable. Jay was working incredibly hard...studying for hours after he got home, working on no sleep, talking with his school adviser for advice...trying to make these women happy. They mocked him and he could never do enough in their eyes.
To put things in perspective, Jay was probably the valedictorian of his class at the time. The school sent another student into the same clinical the next rotation, (but this time a girl), with the warning, "You need to watch out. This is going to be a very bad situation."
In the end, his grad school didn't back him up and the clinical was ended early, had to be repeated at another location, and Jay was not able to graduate with his class. It was devastating to Jay...it destroyed his confidence and took the joy out of finishing his degree.
That was February.
In March, I started having problems with my pregnancy. The baby wasn't growing properly. Ultrasounds revealed the baby had a kidney growing in the wrong place and was small, but nothing else was detected. I was told to stop working and get more rest.
In early May, when Jay should have graduated but was starting his last clinical, I was put on total bed rest. On May 19th, my doctor induced me because of low fluid levels and Therese Elizabeth was born at 35 weeks weighing only 3lbs. 11oz. The 16 days that followed were some of the most difficult of our marriage. On June 5th at 2:15am, Jay and I held her as she took her last breath.
What looked like smooth sailing turned into a hurricane in the blink of an eye. How did 1998 finish? Jay graduated in August without fanfare or a graduation ceremony, I found out I was pregnant towards the end of September, and Jay received an offer for a full time job the very next day.
The year ended well, but we were changed forever as individuals and as a couple. We grieved in different ways, but thankfully we stayed close to each other despite how broken we felt. It took many years for me to work through my grief and brokenness.
After struggling with depression for several years because of un-dealt with grief, I finally reached out and got the therapy I needed. That was mid 2002 to early 2003...when Ellen joined our family.
Again, just as things started to feel like a new beginning, Peter was diagnosed with Autism in October, 2003. Our world took another ginormous turn! The first year with a diagnosis was exhausting....we were searching for that magic bullet to "fix" Peter. It took a while, but we realized it wasn't healthy that Peter was getting 95% of our focus and the other 5 kids only 5%. Despite help from my parents, we were racking up credit card debt and everything was out of balance.
We started to try and live a more balanced life..with our family and our finances. We stopped looking for new treatments for Peter and tried to focus on the things we were trying. We prayed that if there was something that would help Peter, that God would put it in our path. We had to let go...and trust. Not easy!
Life with a severely disabled child is a constant struggle. Especially when Peter was younger and needed to be watched a literal 24 hours a day because he was impulsive and a wanderer. Peter also had severe sleep issues and was up at least 3-4 nights a week for 2-4 hours at a time wide awake when one of us would have to lay with him to keep him from waking up the rest of the house. The situation was beyond hard! I tried to go to support groups but they depressed me because it seemed they were filled with parents separating and divorcing or children on high levels of multiple psych meds. I always left crying and discouraged...not very supportive!
I read an article not too long ago that talked about how parents of autistic children have similar symptoms to soldiers with PTSD. Well, I believe it!
2010 was another difficult year for our family. Jay became severely overheated in a 10K and almost died in July. Jay's sister, Jackie, went into early labor and our niece, Mya, was born at 23 weeks 6 days on August 21st. Then, at the end of the year, Jay's dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. There was a lot of stress and worry about what the future would hold. Thanks be to God, Jay recovered completely after several weeks of pain, Mya is a 100% normal 3 year old, and Jay's dad's surgery and treatment was successful.
My point of all this is to say that difficult times will come. Those difficulties can make us stronger....or tear us apart. Thankfully, what Jay and I have struggled with has made our marriage and our faith stronger. That in no way means any of these moments were easy! We made many mistakes along the way. But, we are still together.
Now that time has passed, we can look back at our family struggles and see all the good that came out of very painful situations! God is still bringing good out of those painful situations when He allows us to comfort and share our experiences with other people that are suffering through something similar. Seeing God's faithfulness to help us through trying times, (even when we were kicking and screaming!), will be a comfort to us if/when hard times come up in the future.
My hope leans heavily on the "if".......