Every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite
The growth itself is not that noteworthy. After all, one would expect that in twenty five years we would grow... spiritually, emotionally, relationally. It is the means by which we've grown, that amazes me most.
Twenty five years ago we were young. I was 20. He was 21. We were both skinny and gangly looking. I had hair with bangs that reached too high. His hair was parted on the side in "slick back" style. Yet, somehow, we were very attracted to one another. We were so smart... or so we thought. We had an idealistic, storybook vision of what our life together would look like, complete with "and they lived happily ever after." We actually thought that we had some control of what our future would hold. We were wrong-- incredibly, unbelievably, utterly wrong. The picture in our twenty something vision must have been from someone else's future storybook because it certainly wasn't from ours.
Somewhere along the way our story has unfolded and....well... it hasn't exactly been a fairy tale.
We're not so skinny anymore and there are hunks of flesh in places we didn't even know existed back when we were 20. There are jiggly places on our legs, arms and belly. Our combined total of chins is greater now and we've long ago given up counting the gray hairs on our heads. We've grown little lines around our eyes. And the little spots that suddenly appear on our skin? The ones that once elicited an "Oh my goodness!! What is that?" Now get nothing more than a shoulder shrug, "Hmmm, there's another one."
We've also grown in number. One, two, three, four... 2 boys, 2 girls. The perfect family. Little mini me's growing up to be just like us and often taunting us with mirror images of some of our own not-so-perfect traits. Don't get me wrong... our children are wonderful. Just not perfect because that would require perfect parents and somehow, in all this growing, we never grew into perfect parents. Then, though not from my womb, children kept coming. A boy, a girl, another boy. I actually never thought I'd make a good boy mom so I really don't know who ordered up all these boys. I only know that there were phone calls and our hearts, already bursting with fullness, somehow grew and made room for one more.
Our home grew too. We went from a little house to a bigger house to an even bigger house. Then, the even bigger house started growing in unexpected ways. Rocks caused holes to grow in the windows. Dents grew in the plaster from too many wrestling matches or inside dodge ball. Mold grew in one of the bathrooms from failure to turn on the fan during too many eleventy hundred minute teen aged showers. That same bathroom grew a hair product film on every imaginable surface. Then, a few years ago, we started growing handicap accessible. Handrails, wheelchair ramps, lift chairs and extra wide doorways. The number of vehicles in our family has grown to the Nth degree. I'm fairly certain the mail carrier thinks we are aiming for the world record for number of auto insurance policies in one household. And my story book never made mention of a nearly 20 year old wheelchair accessible van that dings "DOOR AJAR" all the way down the road, but it's the one vehicle in the whole lot...I mean driveway....that I can't live without. Take the silver van. Take the truck. But don't take the red van with the wheelchair lift. And don't dare park too close to it or I'll hit you with my lift.
No one ever told us that raising children would become increasingly difficult as they grow into adults. I'm still smarting over this one. Someone should have told us this!!! But NO!! My storybook never once told us that the scrapes and boo boos of toddlerhood would morph into heart aches so big that no amount of kisses or band aids or stitches could fix. That should be written in every couple's storybook if children are a part of the story. But through all of the laughter, the frustration the heart ache of parenting, I've grown deeper and more fully in love with the father of my children.
Twenty five years ago we pictured romantic dinners by candlelight and quiet winter nights curled up by the fire. We couldn't possibly have known that every night of our life would be a date night for us. Yep. It's true. Every night Jim and I meet around 8pm in our handicap accessible bathroom and we dance the same beautiful dance together. It's a dance of showering, diapering, dressing and medicating two boys who can't do it themselves. We've been dancing this same dance for years and we move together in flawless motion. It's not our favorite dance. Some of the moves are physically taxing, but we've nailed it. Along the way, the love in my heart has grown deeper from the daily witness of the gentleness with which my man can dance.
After we buried our youngest daughter, there were many well intentioned folks who felt the need to warn us of the divorce rate for couples who lose a child. "Losing a child can be really hard on a marriage," they said, as if maybe we hadn't already thought of that. But they hadn't read our real life storybook either. They didn't know that our hearts would grow ever closer as we witnessed our own pain reflected in the other's eyes. They didn't know about the endless nights when our tears would blend together in one unending stream as we shared our wretched, mutual pain. During this time we thought we'd never smile or laugh or feel joy again. But we did. And we grew. I can't begin to explain it but our marriage bond grew deeper through all the agony. My need for the man whose heart was equally as shattered as my own, grew exponentially through all the rubble and brokenness of grief.
If we'd written our own story it would have looked dramatically different. It would have been free of trials and pain and rivers of tears. Because we didn't know. We didn't know that real growth comes from poor choices and failures and being stripped of all that we thought we were. As I look back over the years, the very good times and the very bad times, I can't thing of a single time when we grew because everything went exactly as planned. I wonder, if we met that young couple today, the ones who vowed to do life together 25 years ago, would we even recognize them? Would we be able to see through the gray hairs and chiseled edges to the idealistic youth that thought they had it figured out?
I am grateful for this man, with whom I've spent more than half my life. I can't wait to grow through the other half of life with him, even though I know it's never going to be a fairy tale and we're not writing the story.
Therefore what God has joined togehter, let no man seperate.
God is good, all the time.