My mind works innately like a camera. It's just a part of who I am. Perhaps that is why a camera feels so natural in my hands.
Right now - snapshots of thirteen years.
March 24th, 2001. Seems like a lifetime ago. But still, I have these snapshots that are clear. Raw, and lovely.
I thought I had so much more figured out than I really did. I was one month post twentieth birthday celebrations.
Walking down an aisle in a small white church building in small town Iowa.
And I thought I knew what love was.
For who I was, and what I knew at that time, I did know in part what this agape covenant was all about. But oh what a small part.
Tulle and lace,
carrying light pink and white roses,
arm linked with my dad's,
eyes locked on the man who was going go through the depths and scale the heights with me.
It's a snapshot that will always be burned into my memory.
Tennessee. I see a snapshot of us on our first big vacation together a year and a half later. Sitting on the edge of the bed in our condo, with shaking hands and moist eyes, we gazed at two pink lines.
My world was growing. Without fully knowing the repercussions, my heart was opening in ways it never had before. And he was there, as always.
His eyes are intrinsically a part of the snapshots. Kind of like pools of clear water, they have pulled me from despair and spoken hope. They have found mine across a room and communicated protection. They have been disappointed,
I can see those eyes in a neonatal intensive care unit, and at the edge of a tiny graveside. I see them spring with hope as seasons move on. Tilling and planting and tending life together. I see his eyes reassuring me and imploring me to press on.
The snapshot of the tulle and lace brings memories of a girl's view of this union.
Because Marriage is such a sweet fairytale, right?
Passion, desire, fire.
Affirmation, exclusivity, attention.
Ahh, it was going to be grand!
And there he was holding me as I threw up on the edge of the hospital bed, room spinning, facing preterm labor again.
And he walked into a house,
met with a crying 2 year old,
screaming 4 day old,
and sobbing wife.
And he was at the wheel on those trips back to Michigan, after a visit to my hometown, where I always started crying right around the turn off to Cedar Rapids….
less time to focus on *us*.
Those eyes. The instant our third came into the world - I specifically remember looking up and seeing pure and complete awe as he looked at me and his newest son.
And suddenly this wasn't about the fairytale anymore.
So much navigating.
So many needs.
Such a crazy learning curve.
Where do *we* fit in to this fast paced dance of pulling all nighters pacing with a screaming baby, diapers (so many, many diapers…),
and medical appointments?
There he is, sitting on the edge of the couch at a loss as I balled up my body as tight as I could. Everything just looked so dark. To see an image without the flutter of a heartbeat was foreign. My flesh crawled and my middle cramped from the invasiveness of emptying my body of a life that no longer was. And he softly took my hand because he knew I would see light again, but he didn't know when.
And sometimes I was the one holding his hand and willing him to see the light.
stumbling for his next step,
going back to school,
hours of work.
Sometimes we were so depleted we were in essence gritting our teeth and just holding on because neither one of us could see much light.
The snapshots are more clear at this point and they begin to have a whisper of things more eternal.
There's our God, holding us up when we can't stand.
It's starting to make more sense now.
That this covenant is not about me,
It's about putting Christ on display.
For if anything can plunge the depths and still arise with beauty? - It has to be fully and completely about HIM.
I'm literally laying on our deck at midnight. He's cutting down trees in the backyard, not because they ned to be cut. I don't know if I've ever cried with my whole body like I did that night. We had both made poor choices and we had to face the dark monster. It was always there, cycling in and out of our story oh-so-uninvited. It was this lie that snagged him when he was stressed; that pornography could give him a few minutes of maybe not facing life. Maybe exhaling for a minute and alleviating the stress. But it never really paid what it promised and we were cut deep.
He smelled like sawdust and my hair was soaking wet. I did not feel love for him, but I clung, and he clung. There on the deck, we faced the ugly and we cried hard.
and growing up (ALL of us growing up. All of us),
and the last sippy cup being tossed.
I see him patiently winding a kite string. Over and over. Careful untangling it from a branch. Little boy feet run with the freedom and joy that comes with wind in your face, a kite in your hand, and knowing beyond a doubt that you have a daddy who loves you.
He's showing them Jesus. He's guiding them to the heart of their Creator. Those snapshots are priceless.
He's sitting in our living room after scaling the stigma of pursuing counseling, and I think I love him more than I ever have before in my life.
He lets Jesus turn his heart inside out, and he grasps onto Him with a desperation. I see it in those eyes. Still pools of blue, but with a new steely resolve that I never seen. And a tenderness; an incredible tenderness that I can't even began to see the depths of.
I'm reaching for the big heavy door at the counselors office too, and I have to just laugh. Stigma and pride and expectations have no where to go now. Goodbye.
Remember that fairytale where the prince and princess go get counseling and…… ;)
Right. Me neither. Let's just go with real life.
I told God what I wanted our love story to look like.
I wrote it beautifully.
It was nearly perfect.
And at first it looked like it was playing out exactly how I had planned.
Oh joy! Happy sigh.
But then I looked in devastated horror as my fairytale was pried from my fingers, and the ashes of my love story floated around me.
The ashes landed all around my feet, and something breathtaking happened.
This redemptive story grew up from those ashes that didn't look at all like my story. As if ashes could be seeds, it was like wildflowers blooming across a field.
There it was.
This is God's creation. These 13 years were never "my story" anyway. I am living out a picture of what it means to love without condition, to serve as Christ serves us, to open myself up to being served, and to forgive.
I am living out the greatest story of all. The gospel is put on display when I surrender my marriage over to the one who designed it. I wash his feet, he washes mine.
Last night we were in the kitchen together. So mundane, so everyday. Just cutting chicken. Just mixing sauce. just boiling water for rice. Just fielding the standard million and one questions from the many little boys. But he'd catch my eye, and I'd see that look (I swear he still makes me blush). No cares for the 8 eyes making up a mini audience. "They'll be super secure" we joke as we move closer and forget all about the chicken and the sauce and the rice.
I know perfection isn't the goal anymore.
I want more eternal things.
I want to put Christ on display and show a hurting world what it looks like to experience beauty from ashes.
It's why Jesus came and it's what these last 13 years have been about.