"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
|July 8, 2000|
Our family motto is: “Never Give Up…Keep Trying!” It’s great to have a family motto. My 4 year old even knows it and says it back to us! In fact, I was getting his seatbelt on the other day which is sometimes impossible, but he tells me in the midst of my frustration, “Mommy, remember our family motto: ‘Never give up. Keep trying!’”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I truly believe that that’s God’s motto as well. He never gives up on us and He keeps trying to pursue us and help us and love us and change us and grow us and mold us. Today, Brad and I celebrate our 12th Anniversary. Throughout that 12 years, we've experienced many ups and many downs. Today, I am so thankful for my husband...my best friend...my love. I am so thankful for the family that God has blessed us with. I am so thankful for our marriage. I am so thankful to share our story about how God never gave up on us.
The word I would use to describe our marriage just a few years ago would be…Hopeless—so hopeless that I truly believed that there would be NO WAY that we would make it through. Now, my husband and I are better, stronger and closer than we’ve ever been, but it didn’t happen without a fight!
In fact, anyone who knew my husband and I when we first started would have voted us “The Couple Most Likely to be Divorced”. I’m sure that some of our friends that knew us are shocked that we are still together today, and frankly, so am I. I say this, not out of disrespect for marriage, but because we didn’t do anything right from the beginning. Even as a dating couple, we were a disaster. The enemy had a plan to destroy us. The enemy has a plan to destroy every marriage. We were almost defeated! Again, I’m thankful to God that He never gives up. He keeps trying!
Our journey together began at EIU in the fall of 1996. He was the Graduate Assistant for the marching band and I was on the dance team. The first time I saw him, I thought he was the cutest guy I had ever seen. It didn’t matter that he was wearing a Huckleberry Hound t-shirt, khaki shorts with white socks and sandles, he had the most amazing blue eyes. I was instantly smitten.
Our relationship was not pretty. Don’t get me wrong. We had some amazing moments. We made some great memories together. We had so much in common. We had so much love for each other, but there were also so many issues on both of our parts which turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Our dating life was really rocky---a lot of breaking up, a lot of fighting and finally after 4 years of dating and an ultimatum later, he finally proposed. Ultimatums are not a good way to start out a marriage. Regardless, less than 6 months later, on July 8, 2000, we were married.
Marriage for us was not easy. In fact, a book describing our marriage for the first 8-9 years would be called What Not To Do For A Successful Marriage with a subtitle--Whatever Brad and Christine are doing, do the opposite! This was difficult for us because my parents had been married for 30some years and Brad’s parents had been married for over 40some years at the time. So why couldn’t we do it? No one ever told us how hard marriage was. It was frustrating.
There was definitely love there. There was definitely friendship. There was definitely common ground. And when things were good, they were really good. When things were bad, they were really bad. It got so bad that a few years ago, our marriage completely fell apart. It all happened right after a 4 year struggle with infertility. Right after we miraculously got pregnant with our beautiful boy, Ben. It seemed as though he came at the worst time in our marriage. Or was it? But God knew that it was the perfect time. He always does, right? God knew that if He blessed us with a child at the exact same time that our marriage was about to end, we would fight to save it. I’m sad to admit that if it weren’t for Ben, Brad and I would most likely not be together today. Don’t ever doubt Him! Brad and I get teary-eyed just thinking about the fact that had we not fought to save our marriage, our daughter, Abigail, wouldn’t be here today. Thank you, God for not giving up on us!
And, so, we went to marriage counseling. I remember feeling embarrassed that we had to go. I didn’t even want to tell my parents. When I did, though, my dad says (in his Mattoon southern accent) “Well, I’m sure you’re mother and I needed marriage counseling, we just never went to marriage counseling.”
I will never forget the first 2,3 maybe even 4 of our sessions were just Brad and I talking and yelling at each other while the counselor just sat there with his mouth open. For over a year we continued to go to counseling, and we made progress, but trust me, it got worse before it got better. It seemed that for every step forward that we’d take, we would take 10 steps back.
At this point either one of us could have left. Either one of us could have given up, but we didn’t. We never gave up on us! We kept trying to make it work! It was tough. It was not fun to hold the mirror up to our faces and to really take a good at ourselves and see how much we had hurt each other. But we both faced our demons head on, and we were ready to get it all out! Look out!!!
So much came out during these sessions. We realized that we lived over 8 years with a marriage that was not God-centered. It was a marriage that was not protected. Because of that, the enemy attacked our marriage in every way. We had so much brokenness that we didn’t even realize it. We struggled with jealousy, selfishness, lack of trust, disrespect, lack of communication, lack of time together, lack of making our marriage a priority, depression, oh—and, don’t forget the 4 years of infertility thrown into the mix, and the list goes on. All of this mess built up into 8 years of resentment, unforgiveness and anger towards one another. It was ugly!
I will never forget the turning point for us: I got so angry at him one night that I screamed and screamed at the top of my lungs about how mad at him that I was. After that, I’m convinced that God shut my mouth because we didn’t talk to each other for 8 days! Instead we wrote letters. We wrote and wrote---page after page. We got out everything! Thousands of words. Miles of hurt. Eight years of questions. Eight years of pain. Eight years of destruction. Out! FINALLY----We were free! Praise the Lord!
Not to say that things were perfect from then on, but it was a start---a fresh start! A start to freedom. A start to a healthier communication. A start to an amazing NEW friendship and love. A start to rebuilding a marriage with a foundation of trust. A start of a new marriage with God in the center just the way He intended marriage to be!
In June of 2010, Brad and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. After a year and a half of literally starting our marriage over and building it from the ground up, we chose to celebrate our FRESH START in a big way. We traveled out to Napa California. We wore our wedding attire and we renewed our wedding vows on a hot air balloon ride over the valley. It was beautiful! It was amazing! It was heavenly. I could feel God smiling.
We are still working on our marriage. Marriage is always a work in progress. WE, as individuals, are always a work in progress. Brad and I thank God for pursuing us, changing us, and loving us so much that He used our past to help us build a better future. He helped us to grow closer to each other and to Him. And we are now able to set an example to our children as to what a healthy marriage should be. We are so thankful that He never gave up on us. He kept trying! But that’s not all there is---we have to never give up too! We have to keep trying too! No matter what it is! Obviously for me, it was my marriage. For you, it might be something else. No matter what your challenge is, just know that God will never give up on you and He will always keep trying to find new ways to pursue you!
In honor of our 12th Anniversary, Brad and I came up with a list of 12 tips that have helped us to have a healthier marriage.
1. Put God at the center of your marriage. Pray together. Pray for each other. Pray! Pray! Pray!
2. Grow together. Be willing to learn from each other.
3. Communicate. Find out how you both communicate best. And Listen!
4. It is not your job to make each other happy. We are in charge of our own happiness. Instead, show each other unconditional love, encouragement, respect and support.
5. Laugh together. Find the humor in little things.
6. Be honest—even if it’s not what the other person wants to hear.
7. Don’t let the little things turn into big things.
8. Always be on each other’s side.
9. Admit when you’re wrong. More importantly, tell your spouse when he’s/she’s right (even though it doesn’t happen that he’s right very often lol! J )
10. Sometimes some things just don’t need to be said.
11. Don’t let solvable problems be the robber of your time, energy, thoughts and joy.12. Find something you both enjoy doing together. Be willing to try new things together and get involved in each other’s interests. Be silly and have fun together!