Worth the Struggle


Life is hard.

In fact, the first three years of married life could easily be classified as one of the most difficult seasons of both our lives.

Our “honeymoon” phase ended during our actual honeymoon when both of our pasts reared their ugly heads into our current business. Then we came home to the needs of three displaced children, and a house full of unseen mold which caused severe illness for us. I ended up spending almost the entire first year in bed unable to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.

But, I classify difficulties of life it into three distinct types: good-hard, bad-hard and just plain hard. Let me clarify. Death, divorce (which for all practical and emotional purposes is death), sickness and loss of anything significant is sorrowfully difficult. Not that good can’t come out of them, but the pain we suffer during those times is awful at best and excruciating most of the time. Those situations are bad-hard.

Then there’s daily life which can be demanding. The end of the day after challenging work deals on three phones at once; children vomiting on the way to school; juggling the laundry, dishes, what-to-have-for-dinner-tonight; and four hours of kids’ homework that is only explained partially in the textbook? Exhausting and just plain hard, right?

Finally, we experience the worth-the-struggle kind of hard – or good-hard.

Ever been on a hike and you’re just about fifty feet from the top of the vista point? No view is visible yet, so you take it on faith that what you’ve anticipated based on your rock-climbing, mountain-hiking friend’s description will be as spectacular as they have asserted it will be. The rocky trail rolls out from under your feet with every other step reminding you that one careless placement of your boot clad foot could send you sprawling on your face or to your death if the worst case presented itself.

Your legs burn with the strain; sweat trickles down your back and marks every bare area of your body and face with wet, dust trails. You wonder how many more steps it will take to get to the top and want to scream, “Are we THERE yet?” You start counting the steps to keep your mind off the pain. When did thirty get to be such a big number? Twenty more, ten more; then just two more and you gasp…

The splendor of a majestic scene spreads out before you.

Sunlight glistens like diamonds on the ocean as waves roll across the crescent shaped shore. A waterfall parachutes down the verdant cliff in the distance. You take in the view, savoring it as a good meal and drinking in the beauty as fine wine. Nothing about those last thirty grueling steps is remembered in that moment. And in that instant, it all became worth every painfully exerted step. That is good-hard.

These first few years have been good-hard. The way God brought Brendan and I together online was miraculous, and the challenging years we’ve faced so far have been as well. I believe God is still all about raising the dead kind of miracles, but the kind I’m talking about here are the everyday things that really don’t make sense, and shouldn’t happen, but they do anyway. Some people call them coincidence, but these “God things” are really just too coincidental and leave us marveling in a perplexed kind of awe.

That is what fairy tales are made of, and what our story is all about.

So what’s your miracle? How has something been good-hard for you?

Relationships


I confess that writing a blog while writing a book on the same topic is a little tricky especially when they aren’t exactly coinciding. My blog is ahead of my book, but I realize I’ve left parts out…crucial parts, and I tend to feel tempted to go back and fill in the blanks. For those of you following our online dating story, that may thrill you, and yet as in any good book or movie I don’t want to give away the ending.

Okay, so for those of you who know us, you know the ending already. Many of you were there at our wedding. So it’s a little like telling a story backwards. And as I’ve said, that’s a bit tricky.

In spite of the temptations and expectations, what I feel led to write today, while it may not seem pertinent to the ongoing story, is the bottom line of pertinence.

Relationships.

Relationships no matter with whom, are complicated and difficult. And amazingly wonderful. And we won’t grow without them.

Last night after hearing a bit of our story, a young woman posed a question to my husband and I that went something like “So do you still feel like you’re in the honeymoon stage? Is the romance still there?”

Very good questions. With multiple levels of answers. Which is why I think I feel drawn to the issue of relationship today.

The easy answer is yes and no. Our honeymoon introduced the “end” of the honeymoon “phase” (our first real fight), and yet we often gaze at each other with eyes and hearts of honeymooners. We feel the romance of our love, devotion and miracle story frequently and deeply, but we also sometimes look at each other and wonder (like all couples) “what the heck is going on, how did we get here and how do we do this?”

My husband and I just started reading Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge. It’s a book about marriage being a picture of God’s love story with us. Before we finished the introduction, I was crying and my husband was tearing up. It’s that powerful, honest, encouraging and hopeful. I’m so grateful that someone has the guts to talk about the struggles in their marriage, not with the shame and embarrassment that we all feel, but with the transparent truth that shouts out “the emperor has no clothes!” Aren’t we all sighing with relief when someone finally states  the obvious that no one else will dare utter? Marriage is hard, and we don’t get it. I’m crazy in love with this person that bewilders me and makes me want to punch them at times. By the way, is that okay? Are we doomed then to be a statistic or is there hope for us?

Sometimes it’s hard to admit that the fairy tale isn’t working out as we imagined it would, but what I’m learning is that the fairy tale is true and happily-ever-after IS possible, it just takes a little more hard work and perseverance  than movies ever have time for. It’s okay to struggle and to let people know we need help. It’s not only okay, it’s normal, typical and to be expected. The problem is that we just don’t expect it, and then panic when difficulty comes and we aren’t sure how to handle it.

One of the best (and most frequent) encouragements we have received from other further-along-in-marriage couples is the concept of being on the same team. We love each other; that’s a given. So instead of fighting each other and each other’s baggage, we want to learn to fight together on behalf of each other. How can I help my husband become all God intends for him to be? How does he do the same for me? We can apply this to relationships with siblings, friends and parents as well, not only spouses.

Next week maybe I’ll fill in some of the blanks of our story, though not so much as to keep you from wanting to read the book, but for now let’s just say that marriage is a fantasy, a reality, a dream worth pursuing and fighting for. And, we win in the end. Isn’t that what romance is all about?