We were so young getting married under circumstances that were not ideal to build a foundation on. I'm sure many people that watched us exchange vows wondered just how long our marriage would last. I think in the early years, the phrase "ignorance is bliss" worked in our favor. We were college students juggling babies and toddlers without anyone around us that could really share our journey. We were figuring things out...often taking long detours because we didn't have the life experience we needed to make good decisions.(and a lack of humility to ask for help when we should have!)
Making our childhood faith our own was the glue that kept Jay and I together through all the challenges we have faced in our marriage. I don't have statistics, but I imagine that a marriage that starts at 18, faces the devastating grief of losing a child at 24, and has a child diagnosed with severe Autism when they are 30 would definitely be in the category of a high divorce rate. Thankfully, we continue to defy the odds but we still work hard at staying connected and loving each other through our own faults and weaknesses.
As a multitasking woman, I often read multiple books at the same time. I usually have a book I only read at bed time, a book I only read in adoration, and a book I read here and there when I can sneak in a few minutes of quiet time.
Recently, my "quiet time" book was Love is Patient, But I'm Not by Christopher West. I was drawn to the catchy title that unfortunately rings true for me much of the time. (Jay likes to tease me that I will never be known as St. Michelle the patron saint of patience. Unfortunately, it's the truth!)
This book has some thought provoking words and questions with very short chapters. (Which is why it's ideal for quick reads in my limited quiet time!) In Chapter Six, Love is Not Rude, West writes about what "Pope Francis calls "the principle of spiritual realism" in marriage" which is the "interior freedom to release the other person from the burden of completely satisfying my needs."(pg39) As West continues, "this does not mean denying or repressing our needs; rather, it means learning how to open them to God in prayer."(pg39)
Jay and I are blessed to have a very good, albeit imperfect, marriage. There have definitely been times in our marriage...even recently...when I look to Jay to fill a God sized hole in my heart. While Jay can be supportive about feelings or thoughts I might be struggling with, he can't do God's job of healing my heart. (And of course it works both ways. I can't fill Jay's God sized holes either!) I've had lots of practice over the years learning to lean into God and to wait on him when those holes appear. It's not always a quick fix, but it is the way that God brings true healing and understanding into my empty spaces. Not only that, but when the hurt is gone and grace is poured into those former holes, I then have more to give my family and friends. I LOVE when that happens!
Our marriage is being launched into a new season of life. The lives that our love have brought forth is growing as two of our sons have gotten engaged in the last few months. In August of 2019 and May of 2020, we will welcome two new daughters into our family. Jay and I already have thoughts of future grandbabies dancing in our heads!
There is so much to take in! As our lives are changing, I am just trying to soak in all of the joyful moments. I feel more deeply the joy of the fleeting moments of having all of my children in our home at the same time. I try to imprint on my memory the sounds of our adult children, their fiancees' and our teenagers playing games and laughing together. I snuggle with Kate and Luke on the couch for a few extra minutes past bedtime because I know the time will come all too soon when that sweet spot of child raising will be over for good.
Once the little kids go to sleep, I sit next to Jay on the couch with my head on his chest. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the love that fills our home, for all those happy voices, and for the two youngest dreaming in their beds. God took a very imperfect love between two very imperfect people and He continues to multiply it in unexpected ways. It's our very own "loaves and fishes" story!