To understand how amazing our journey has been, you have to know a little more of our story. Like the beautiful painting that you admire, until you find out that the artist painted it…with his mouth. Because he had no arms. Our story is lovely on the surface, until you look closer and see the absolutely shattered lives that God has not only salvaged, but made into something new and beautiful.
I grew up in a wonderful home, on a dairy goat farm in Texas. We were in church or Bible study regularly, we worked hard, lived wholesome honest lives. My mom homeschooled all of us kids, we played sports; it was an idyllic childhood. At a pro-life event, just as I turned 20, I met a man.
I didn’t date at all in high school. I had too many things going on, too much focus on what was important to me, and had watched too many friends go through the heartache of dating and then breaking up. I just wasn’t interested in playing that game. But here was this guy, and there was this energy. He spent a lot of time with my dad after that event. My dad gave him a summer job, hanging vinyl siding. I got to know him on the periphery, and my attraction to him grew. How easy it is to deceive the innocent.
I married him nine months after I met him. He was moving to California for grad school, so even though I didn’t know him well, I figured that a successful marriage is more about commitment than being in love. So on a whole host of prayers and boundless faith that everything would work out for the best, I stepped into my new life with enthusiasm and anticipation.
I never could have anticipated the years of pain that I was facing. If now, I could go back and talk with my younger self, what would I say? I would say “Hold on. Hold on to Jesus with everything that you have, because everything else will be taken from you.” I will gloss over the eleven years of nightmare, years that hammered me and molded me and broke me, years that are redeemed by my six beautiful, funny, creative children. They are proof that good things can come out of awful things. But after holding on as hard as I could, and fighting as long as I could for a marriage that wasn’t much of a marriage- more like legal slavery- it all crashed in on me inside of three days. My fragile strength was no longer enough to hold it, and my world exploded into a million pieces.
And with God, there is always a ‘but God’.
But God had gone before me, and had already made a safe way out for myself and the children. A house, owned by my parents, on an acre of land and near my family. A job- cleaning houses and caregiving for elderly, flexible with my schedule as a suddenly, newly single mom. In a horrible school district, but since homeschooling was not foreign to me, I defaulted to what I knew. My pride and work ethic wouldn’t allow me to enlist in government aid unless I was simply incapacitated, so we economized, made do, were cared for by God’s people; we thrived on what most people would consider a completely insufficient income. We joined a homeschool co-op to broaden the children’s education and give them more social time. I taught a class and fell in love with all of “my” kids, but most particularly these little brown eyed pixies. One day my daughter was begging for her brown eyed pixie friend to come play at our house, so I had to speak with her father.
I had studiously avoided men. I had severe trust issues, had no desire to date, and had plenty on my plate just being mom and breadwinner and teacher and chauffeur and church member…but I spoke with this man with eyes that literally, truly sparkle and a smile that could melt butter, and my determined shell of indifference slipped a little. He was a single dad with full custody of his kids, and that alone told me a long story without any words.
My hero had a similar story, in reverse. Maybe not as extreme, but an unwanted divorce had rocked him to his core. He shared my struggles of trying to juggle the home, the kids, and work- but he worked more than full time, which made the juggling harder. We each understood the awful road the other had walked; the complicated emotions, the confusion, the agony of watching our children hurt and being unable to fix it. Our children’s friendship became our friendship as well, and when he asked me to take him on as a cleaning customer, I said yes. Our problem was that we couldn’t quit talking. My two or three hour cleaning job became six or seven hours, dinner, cross country rambles on his family’s land. We both knew there was more to this friendship than a Platonic companionship, but I fought it hard. My trust issues were a huge obstacle, until I realized that I didn’t just like him. I needed him.
My boys were growing, and they needed a father- A man to teach them how to be bold, exemplary men. My girls were growing, boys were noticing, and they needed a protector- A man to affirm their worth (and scare off icky boys until an appropriate time). And I needed a mate. I needed the missing part of the equation. I needed him on a level that I didn’t know existed- not merely practical or romantic, but the other half of myself that I didn’t know was lacking until now.
Somehow, simply by being himself, my hero quietly conquered my darkest fears and slipped past my defenses. The years of abuse did a beautiful thing for me; they gave me perspective. Ladies, I will warn you now- I have precious little patience for any complaining about husbands not picking up their clothes, or forgetting anniversaries, or any of the common gripes that women have about their men. My hero is not a perfect man. There are things that, had I not gained the perspective of those awful years, would drive me nuts. But he is a good man. He works so hard for us. He is faithful and kind and funny and he LOVES OUR KIDS. And we have both chosen every day to appreciate the good and forgive the failings of the other. The hellish pain of divorce is not something that we are willing to taste again.
So when he took me on that moonlit walk those months ago, and we came back into a house full of giggly children who all lined up and yelled “Will you marry us?!?”… when they brought me the most perfect ring ever, and he whispered “Will you be the one who drives me crazy for the rest of my life?”… The answer was easy.
Yes. Every day, yes. On the fun filled, happy days, yes. On the days we are both pulling our hair out, yes. Even the hard days are more bearable as a team. My heart has never been so full, or more at peace.
My God is faithful. His hand has stayed on us through all the breaking and crumbling and rebuilding, and He guides our future. I know that whatever we face, His word is true:
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” Joel 2:26