I have gone back and forth about writing this post. I don’t care if no one reads it, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to share this. I’m not sure I want to be this honest. But then I knew that I needed to live up to what I feel God is calling me to do – to tell my story. The good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. This post is just a pouring out of my heart – some of it may not make sense, but I know I’m just meant to share. So take it as it is.
Every person reading this, has been through a trying time in life. Whether it be health, marriage, job, losing a loved one, inner struggles, you fill in the blank. We’ve ALL been there. We have all had these mile markers staked in our lives that hold up the trial sign. Trials that have challenged who we are, who we think we are, and even more so, who God is. Is He trustworthy? Is He still a good God, even when life seems to be falling apart?
I have wrestled with those same questions. One thing I never really put much thought into though, was how trials challenge a marriage; until it challenged mine.
When I had my first open heart surgery, I was 17, still living under my parents roof, and they did the most amazing job of walking me through that whole ordeal. When I started to think about getting married someday though, I had to be open about my past because I knew it would effect my marriage. Marrying me meant that we might not be able to have my own kids and that this person would have to walk my heart journey with me. I will never forget my conversation at Applebee’s with Dan, while we were on our first official date – through Dan’s gracious and loving response, I knew it was possible to find that “one” who would understand. May 12, 2006, we made it official. If you don’t want to do the math, that was 13 years ago.
Ever since we said “I do” though, it has been quite a journey. Our first year sure had it’s bumps – we were sooo different and melding two very different people together sure was a good idea to God, but boy, we sure wondered, “what in the world are we doing?” But obviously we worked through our differences and maybe we weren’t that different after all.
Then my heart started to get worse. Then we found out I couldn’t have kids. Then we went through the IVF process with a gestational carrier, where God created twins, but took them home only 3 weeks gestation. My husband lost his job. God performed a miracle and we had sweet Mazy Grace. Then my heart got a lot worse and ever since those two surgeries, it’s been an uphill battle.
I don’t state all of that for any sort of pity or sympathy, but in hopes that you can find yourself relating in some way. You too, my friend, have walked a journey. It hasn’t been an easy one. I have had the humble privilege of listening to many stories and oh my heart just breaks. I often can’t imagine. My story consists of health issues. Yours looks very different and that’s the beauty of being brothers and sisters in Christ. But after going through all of my heart failure issues, this too, has really tested our “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” marriage vows.
I’m going to be as candid as I can. I wonder how Dan does it?. How does he stay with a woman who has constant heart issues – issues that have caused so much stress in life? And has even caused immense anxiety in our own child? It takes quite a man to go through what he has. I believe that a covenant made in marriage is not to be broken – even when things get tough. But trust me, we have laid awake at night, not seeing eye to eye, only just wanting to be understood. We go to bed silent. We go to bed frustrated. We wake up the next morning, wondering what the other is thinking. How do we convey to each other, how we really feel about all of this happening, when we both grieve, process, and deal with it all so differently?
My heart failure has effected my faith. My heart failure has effected my energy levels and ability to do certain tasks around the house. My heart failure has effected my parenting abilities. My heart failure has effected my emotional stability. My heart failure has effected my ability to be intimate. My heart failure has effected every part of my life, whether I want to admit it or not.
When trials effect a marriage, it effects every single part of you, including your spouse. Dan has had to see his wife struggling for the next breath. He has had to deal with Mazy’s emotional outbursts. He has had to sleep on her floor for months, to ensure she knew we weren’t going to leave her. He has had to stay strong when it would’ve been easier to lose it. He continues to provide for our family. And when all of those areas of life are called up to bat at once, it effects the deepest parts of who we are.
It hasn’t been easy, but one thing I do know, is we are choosing EACH OTHER every day. And it has been worth every hard day. Choosing Dan and him choosing me, even when things get hard, has been life-giving in so many ways. There have been times when coming home from an appointment and our pains and struggles were so different, there really was no way of being able to comprehend what the other was feeling. But we chose to keep trying. It took hours. It took days. And sometimes a week. But choosing to try has taken our marriage to a whole new level. When the toughest times in life come, will we withstand the test? And I can humbly say, when those times have come, we have overcome with God’s grace and the love He continues to grow in us.
But this one thing I know. That God’s grace is so evident and so incredibly powerful between the walls of our home. And I want to reiterate, it’s GOD’S grace – not anything of our own ability. In a moment, I will walk away from this computer to a man who makes me laugh so hard! Who keeps me young. A man who continues to walk beside me, when I know it would be easier to probably not. A man who fist-bumps me before every procedure because he knows our love language. A man who loves his family with all of who he is. A man who makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich when I don’t have the energy (just put the stove dial at #6 and you’ll literally be golden every time). A man who loves me, scars and all. A man who loves me for who I am, and not for what heart failure has done to me. A man who last but not least, loves God with his whole heart.
Of course our spouses are going to do things that drive us crazy. We joke about that all of the time. Of course our spouses aren’t going to be able to read our minds, though for some reason we think they can and should. But on this side of heaven, when we devote ourselves to loving each other the way Christ loves us, it changes how we view love. It’s not conditional. It’s not based on what was said or not said. It’s not based on any medical diagnosis.
And nothing is going to get in the way of THIS love. We refuse to let it. We are stronger than ever, really. What we’ve endured and worked through has been more than what we ever imagined, but God has allowed all He has, for a very specific purpose. And maybe it’s so that we can help others work through the tough times too, when tough times come your way. And they will come. Will we have another “tiff”? Absolutely. And we will work through it like we did the other 1,000 times? Absolutely. Because I love that man, til death do us part!
Marriage is something we all don’t dare talk about. If we admit it’s hard, then we assume that person thinks you’re going to get a divorce. Am I right? Why can’t we talk about the struggles of marriage like we talk about the struggles in parenting? Why can’t we be just as open and honest? I know, marriage is something sacred and covenantal. But all the MORE, then, we should talk about it, to walk along side those who need encouragement or a listening ear. Why? Because I guarantee every single married person has experienced something similar – we just aren’t willing to talk about it. And I realized I was sailing along in the same boat of not being willing to talk about it. So here it is. Here’s my journey. Here’s my story.
Trials will come into your life. It’s inevitable and it’s Biblical – as in not if, but when they come. But one thing we can hold onto firmly is that God’s grace can cover far more than any weakness or trials we experience. We just have to let that grace into our lives and into our marriages. And the more grace we let in, the more grace we can offer each other, and open up truthfully about our marriages. So let’s do this. Together.