On Four Years of Marriage

On Four Years of Marriage

Today is our fourth wedding anniversary.

I know, four years is just a baby in marriage terms. But it’s worth reflecting on, I think. Especially since so few of my fellow millennials seem to be interested in marriage these days.

If you know me in real life, or if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my life isn’t perfect. But there is one thing that has stood out above all else:

These four years have been, hands down, the best of my life. God blessed James and I with the most beautiful marriage, and it’s only getting better with time.

I’m aware that not everyone has this experience. God gave me a tremendous blessing that I don’t deserve. I won’t pretend to speak for anyone else’s experience here. I simply want to share a little bit about what this blessing has been for me, especially since the majority of this blog is primarily focused on the lack of one particular blessing (namely, a womb).

So, without further ado and caveats, here we go:

Four years ago, we entered into this life with the expectation that we would continue to grow and to change. We imagined that our lives wouldn’t be easy, but that we would grow together, love and support each other, come what may.

We knew from the get-go that this was beyond human ability. But we also trusted that, from that day forward, God would give us all the grace we needed to make it work. “Christ abundantly blesses this love.”

What we didn’t know yet, on that day, was how far above and beyond God would take us.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, four years of marriage is nothing. We’re basically newlyweds, right? Speaking of being newlyweds…

People said that newlywed feeling would wear off. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

People said I would wake up one day and wonder who the heck I married and why. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

People said that the first year would be the hardest. Or that marriage, in general, would be extremely hard.

What I’ve seen is this – LIFE is hard. Marriage is a vehicle that makes life better. And like any vehicle, it occasionally needs tune-ups and repairs. Maybe it gets a few dings and scrapes. Maybe it gets in a wreck at some point. But you spend those hours in the garage applying enough sweat and elbow grease, and you get that baby shining.

And you remember that you can’t do it alone. It’s not a one-person job. It’s not even a two-person job. It’s a you + me + God-person job. God’s in charge, and you two just do your best to listen to his direction.

You’re always going to change. I’m not the same person I was four years ago, and neither is James. And we’re certainly not the same two college students who met on a dating site nine years ago. And that is wonderful, because with God’s help, we’re growing together into a life that our 20 and 22-year-old selves would be thrilled to catch a glimpse of – which brings me to my next point.

People, especially pious people, like to say that marriage is about “self-donation”, “service”, “life-giving love”… all of those things are true, of course. But I’m going to channel my inner Flannery O’Connor and tell you, in practical terms, what this really means:

Marriage is a life-long activity of continually helping another person get their sh*t together.

You do this for each other, on both spiritual, emotional and literal(physical) levels. And maybe you spend a little too much time in the weeds, helping your spouse find their wallet for the umpteenth night in a row, and you get a little frustrated. But in a moment of grace, God calls you out of this and gives you a glimpse of the big picture.

Maybe he lets you see the love in your husband’s eyes when you came home from work late, again, and he took it upon himself to make your lunch for the next day. Or maybe you see it when you’re in confession, and you realize that everything you feel guilty about stems purely from wanting to love him more, and better, and the only reason you’re crying is because you just love him so darn much and you need Jesus to help you do better, because “the spirit is willing…” And then you realize…

It’s ok. It’s all ok. All of the mess. All of the suffering. All of the crazy. Because He’s doing great things for you, and even if you don’t see it all here, that’s ok, because it’s not about here. It’s about heaven. He’s making you saints, in and through your struggles.

Marriage was never meant to be a destination – marriage was and is always about the journey. “Happily ever after” is the way all the good stories begin.

Happy Anniversary, James. I love you. I love our life together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And we’ve only just begun.

Love,

Connie

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Sin and Sauerkraut

Sin and Sauerkraut

It was either Lent or Advent. One of the two. I know this because we were getting ready for a school-wide penance service.

All of Ms. Q’s 6th grade religion class was seated in a circle on the floor. Ms. Q. was at 12:00, holding a bowl of the most disgusting concoction I’ve ever seen: canned liver-flavored dog food mixed with sauerkraut.

“If ANYONE moves a muscle, if ONE DROP of this gets on the floor or if ANYONE puts this on anyone else, you WILL get detention. Immediately.”

Boy if that doesn’t strike terror into the mind of an 11-year-old. Let’s hope I really was the teacher’s pet in this case.

“Now hold out your hands.”

Oh, gross. Must we?

For the first time in, like, ever, you could hear an ant crawling.

With the fear of God in our hearts, each of us accepted that gross pile of crap. Ms. Q. explained,

“This is what sin looks like on your soul. When we go to Confession, it’s like taking a shower. God washes away all that gunk.”

I’m sure she was more eloquent, but that is what I remember. I also remember being in girl’s room afterwards, scrubbing my hands and bumming lotion and hand-sanitizer off my cousin who was in 8th grade at the time. (1999 was the year of Bath and Body Works mania, thank God!)

Some say that Ms. Q. was out of her mind that day- but I’ve always considered this a stroke of genius. Sin is ugly. It really is. And even though an 11-year-old might not be able to understand all the consequences that sin can bring later in life, she can understand that something that smells and looks like worm-infested vomit isn’t something she wants in her life.  In fact, 16 years later, that inner 11-year-old can still remember the smell. And though my understanding of Confession has since deepened, the thought of a spiritual hand-washing still motivates me on occasion. (If you’d like to read some deeper, more adult thoughts on the subject, click here.)

Thank you, Ms. Q., for instilling in me a sense of spiritual hygiene. And, um, pass the lotion, please.