A Marriage on the Rock

62701_428788110875_908313_nToday, I have been married to my best friend for 13 years.

And as you read that sentence, I’ll bet that you were thinking this would be a post on us. Our wedding day, a tribute to him and all that we’ve been through in those 13 years. Well, you’d be wrong. Sort of.

This post is about the people that showed me what a marriage should look like, and how I want mine to look in 50 or so years – my grandparents. I know it seems strange, to write a post about someone else on my own wedding anniversary. But believe me, the person that I’m celebrating my love for today….he understands.

I vaguely remember my grandmother telling me once about when they were married. She was 17 years old. He was 13 years older. She sat on the fence post, waiting on him to pick her up. He picked her up on the back of his horse, and they went off to get married. On December 12, 2005, the day he died, they’d been married 58 years.

I don’t know the specifics about their wedding day, their early years of marriage, their parenting styles and trials, or even the specific struggles that they encountered in married life. I’m sure they had arguments, differences of opinion, problems of their own. I don’t know about these things, because they never let us see them. I could be totally wrong & off-base with my description of them….but I don’t think so. Because what I do know is what I saw in their marriage, over the 23 years I witnessed them together before he passed away.  What I do know is the lasting example that they left for my own marriage.

62032_428907965875_3196156_nIn Proverbs 31, there is a description of the Virtuous Wife. The scripture says that the heart of her husband safely trusts her. She does her husband good and not evil all the days of her life. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. As I read these descriptors (these are just a few), I couldn’t help but think of her.

She loved my grandfather like no one else. A kind of love that’s rare nowdays. She loved us all, and would have done anything on earth for us…as I’m sure most grandmothers would. But her! My grandmother served her husband like no other woman I’ve ever known. I hadn’t really thought about this until recently. The things…little things…that so many of us women grumble & complain about doing for our familes, our husbands, she did so willingly.

She rose early every single day to make sure he had all that he needed for his day. She made sure he had breakfast on the table. And lunch. And dinner. Every day. Clean, ironed clothes to wear. She managed the household, paid the bills, ran the errands. She measured out his two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and split his Coca-Cola with him because a whole can was too much. She watched wrestling, and baseball…oh, the baseball…every.single.day. Not because she liked it – she didn’t – but because he did. I never even realized how much she really didn’t care for it until after he was gone. She never complained. If you happened to be over while he was taking his bath in the afternoon time, you’d probably even hear him call for her to come rinse out his hair. Now, I know that may seem a little over-the-top to some people. But really, isn’t that what God calls us to do? Love, and serve, and help, without the grumbling, or complaining, or self-seeking. As I’m writing this even, I’m thinking of just how much I pale in comparison to the wife she was.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”  -Ephesians 5:22-24

She epitomized this. She submitted to him. I know, I know. This is such a controversial topic these days. But I just feel that if you could’ve seen her submit to him, you’d understand how God meant for this to be done.

He was never overbearing, or harsh, or mean. He was never loud or demanding. My grandfather was such a gentle man when it came to her. For the most part, at least from what I always saw, she did as he asked. He made it easy, I’m sure, for her to submit to him. For her to follow his lead, want to be with him and around him, move and conform to his ways. Because his ways always had her in mind.

They had such a love for each other. If she occasionally did go into the “back room” to watch her TV shows, it wouldn’t be long before one of them was asking the other to join. She watched him carefully from the kitchen window as he fished on the pond. They rode to job sites listening to Kenny Rogers, just to pass time and be with each other. They just truly enjoyed each other. You could see their love in each others’ eyes. He called her Mama, she called him Daddy. Neither one of them measured over 5 feet tall, but their love could’ve consumed the biggest person you know.

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” -Ephesians 5:28-31

And he loved her. Completely, and perfectly, and effortlessly. Actually, I can’t even describe the love he showed toward her as effortless, because it was even more than that. I don’t even know a word for it. It was natural, an after-thought. He just loved her, plain and simply. It was so obvious. He gave of himself freely to her. What was his, was hers. They shared everything. They did everything with the other in mind. They were one.

When people talk about marriage these days, these verses are used almost as if they are ugly words. But if y’all could’ve seen this lived in person….oh, how I wish you could’ve seen this lived in person….you’d “get it”.

Now, I don’t know how much my grandfather actually based his marriage on these verses specifically. My grandfather quit school when he was very, very young to help support his large family, and thus couldn’t read much. But regardless of whether or not he actually knew these verses…he lived them.

527995_10150645110285876_1428526438_nA few days ago, the Lord gave me a sentence that I felt was specifically intended for this post. I didn’t really understand how it was supposed to fit in until today. Wives, the Lord calls us to love our husbands like this because that’s how He first loved us!

And then, today, our pastor preached briefly on submission during his sermon. He explained that the word sub- means beneath, and mission- means assignment. So, if we as husbands and wives…and even simply as people…are practicing submission, we are surrendered to His assignment. Husbands are called to be submitted to Gods’ assignment, and wives to their husbands. It is the foundation of marriage.

In fact, we were saved by submission. Saved from our sin! Not MY will, THY will be done. Jesus prayed this as He was dying on the cross. Our Heavenly Father loved us enough to send His Son to die for us — the same Son who loved us enough to submit to His Father’s will, even to the point of death! He rested in His foundation and the power of His Father. And that same God that He rested in, raised Him from the dead!

Friends, we have to make God the foundation of our marriages. HE is the base. Husbands, seek him and rest in Him. He alone will give you the strength and provision you need for your family. Wives, you can then submit to your husbands, knowing that he is planted firmly in a foundation of the Lord. He will love you with completeness, and gentleness, and love…just as Pop loved Memaw…because God will show him how.

It’s been a lot of years now since I’ve seen their love in person. It’s easy to forget. Hard to remember. But, even as I write this, it’s something that I know I have to strive to remind myself regularly. Daily. It is the success of a marriage. It is the key. We are taught that God has given us all the answers in His word. So, why not marriage? Just because they sound old-fashioned & hard to live by? If you could’ve only seen how easy they made it look.

My husband & I got away together this weekend. We were able to talk, reminisce, and think about the future. We talked about what we want for our family. We talked about how we want to raise our boys. And we talked about this set of grandparents, and their marriage…and how, even though they’ve been gone a while now, we still want what they had.

So, today, on my 13th wedding anniversary, I’m not going to write some fluffy piece about how great my marriage is & how much trial we’ve overcome. Although those things are both true, I want to honor the marriage that made us want ours to be better. I honor their marriage today because it was what marriage should be.

Today, I will promise to love more like them. Live more like them. Do marriage more like them. And, in turn, more like God wants me to love, live, and do marriage. Because, honestly, I think they had it pretty darn close to right. Will you join me, friends?

And honey, to the most challenging, yet rewarding, 13 years I could’ve imagined….it’s been real, and tough, and exciting, and fun. But, most of all, it’s been with you. And that’s what makes it best.

Every day…but especially today…I love you more than most.

Just Be Held

I sat down today during my few minutes of “Mommy” time with the intent to make a grocery list, look up some ideas on eating better, and start organizing some things for back-to-school. And then I got the blogging urge.

To be honest, I haven’t felt very qualified to write a blog post lately. We’ve been struggling around our house. Between the (large) demands of a two- almost “threenager”, an early-stage teething baby, some significant financial stressors, and some pretty big career decisions to make, the stress level in our household has been at an all-time high. I’ll admit, there have been angry words & stressed silences. Marriage…and life in general…has been tough. 11822729_10152833335765876_9107079343337356003_n

As I was reading back over my previous blog posts the other day, I realized that I’ve been telling y’all about all the good & blessings that have come from my trials. But, what about all those times when you have trials, and you pray & pray, and you don’t get a bouncing new baby, or perfect new husband, or long awaited opportunity? What about those times when you have trials and nothing good does seem to come from it? I do have those kind too!

The stress had been high, and a week or so ago I had one of those just-walk-away moments.

I cried out to God that I just felt alone. As I said this to Him, a familiar song came on the radio. I’d heard it many times before, but it had never held the meaning for me that it did this time. It’s a song by a band called Casting Crowns, titled Just Be Held. The whole song really is wonderful & spoke to me immensely, but a particular part really smacked me in the forehead.

“So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away

You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place

I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”

It was His way of answering me…I’m not alone.

And you’re not alone either, friend.

It’s true, God did answer so many of my prayers with exactly what I prayed for – I prayed many years for a baby, for a family. And I got exactly what I asked of Him. But friends, it’s not going to always work like that! Not for you, and not for me either.

I did have babies. My prayer was answered. But you know what else? I have other prayers that have been answered with a No. I have other prayers that I’m still waiting to be answered. Does it mean that I’m going to lose my faith in God? No! Does it mean that I’ve done something wrong, or that He loves me less? Absolutely not. Does it mean that He’s telling me no because He has something different in store for me? Probably so.

See friends, sometimes we tend to get controlling & pushy when we aren’t getting our way. I know I do. My ugly comes out. If something isn’t going the way I want, I’ll just go all “threenager” on it, and try to make it go my way…. y’all tell me I’m not alone here!

And then, when things don’t just conform to the way I think they should go, I get mad. Or upset. Or both. I may or may not start cranking up my pity party. I feel alone… because surely if God hasn’t given me what I want, He must not be there with me at all!

But friends, when things don’t go your way, it doesn’t mean your alone at all.

Maybe it means God has gone before you, making your pathways straight for the next big thing.

Maybe it means He’s trying to open your eyes to new things, new possibilities that you may not have considered before.

Maybe it means He wants you to wait patiently and just be held.

Sometimes I have to give myself a reality check. We are God’s children. And just like I love to hold my sweet 5 month old baby & listen to him breathe – just like I love to curl in that tiny little toddler bed and get snuggles from my big boy – God loves to hold us too.

He sees us like we see our children.

And if you don’t have children, it doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to you! Just like the niece or nephew that you stared at, amazed at their perfect little cheeks and lips – just like the sweet little puppy that curled up on your feet & let out that quick little sigh of contentment  – just like the comfort you feel being back at “home” with a parent or grandparent. That feeling of love & peace & perfection – that’s how He sees us.

He loves us. Really & truly & deeply. And He only wants what’s best for us. At all times, all day, every day. So when your prayer isn’t answered and you’re on your knees and everything seems far away – when you feel alone – know He’s there. And just because His answer doesn’t look like what you had in your head, all planned out & perfect, it doesn’t mean He isn’t answering.

Hold me, God. Just hold me.

Your tears are not wasted, friend! Let yourself just be held.

PS- I’ll be reading this to myself later.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” -Isaiah 59:1

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The Answered Prayer

Tonight, I watched as my little boy ran across the street to share his big bag of marshmallows, fresh from the grocery store, with the neighbor he so loves. I listened to my husband tell him about a dozen times not to jump on the couch near his baby brother, as he halfheartedly listened to Dads’ instruction. I sat in my living room & witnessed a marshmallow fight with my coffee table and dining room chair as forts. I laughed as he screamed because my husband & I were snuggling on the couch, and tried emphatically to physically move his Daddy away from me.

When he finally settled down, we joked about how for years we sat quietly & peacefully on the couch, watching our TV shows, wishing we had kids to fill the silence. And now, here we are, wishing for just a couple minutes of silence from the loudness & chaos & screaming….all the while knowing we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And during this time, it got me to thinking about my sweet little big boy. The one that God gave me to remind me that He still answers prayers.

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He was such a blessing, even from the start. Even before we knew he existed, when the money to fund our adoption seemed to fall out of thin air-  straight from an inheritance that wouldn’t even be duly mine for almost 3 more years. We’d talked about adopting, met with an agency even, but had decided that it just wasn’t in the budget for a couple middle-class twenty-somethings with mediocre savings. Then a family member, unknowing we’d even considered adoption, came along with a fairly substantial sum of money. Not enough to fund an agency adoption, but enough to fund a private adoption. It would be almost a year before we knew why God presented us with that money.

Blessings even from the very first phone call that posed the question, “Leslie, Amy is pregnant. We were wondering if you & JW would consider adopting the baby?”  What she didn’t know is that I’d prayed for this. Specifically for this. In a community of babies that were seeming to appear out of nowhere for well-deserving couples to adopt, I’d so jealously told my husband that I didn’t understand why that couldn’t happen for us- why wouldn’t a baby just fall into our laps, so to speak? It was pure, ugly sin talking. And then, months and months later, came that early-morning, out-of-the-blue phone call that would change our lives.

Blessings even from how the details of how our adoption fell into place. I didn’t have the first clue how to piece together an adoption myself, without locating & receiving placement through an adoption agency. Did we start with an attorney? Could we pass a home study, living paycheck to paycheck in a 2 bedroom apartment? I literally Googled an attorney, which led me straight to someone in the state where he would be born. It only took a few phone calls to have all my “ducks in a row”, and we were miraculously on the right path.

Even from the grace extended to me by his birth mother in the moments of his birth. She labored, felt the pain both physically and emotionally, and gave birth to this perfect baby boy. And in that moment, she let me hold him first – the baby that she would give to me to raise. She was the only other woman in the world that possibly loved him as much as I did at that moment, and even her smallest acts were selfless. Words can’t even describe the admiration I have for her.

What Bryce’s birth story has taught me is that God is good. He does answer prayer. Although not always executed in the way in which we expect, He answers. If you’d told me 8 years ago that I’d be an adoptive parent, I may have laughed at you. Heartily. I would’ve never expected that adoption would be the avenue God would choose to bring me a child. But I can tell you so surely now, that He chose that avenue because Bryce was meant to be a part of our family. Not just any baby. Bryce.

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I had so many questions. So many emotions, in the days leading up to and following our adoption.  What would it be like, when he was born? Seeing him for the first time. Loving him in person. Knowing that no signatures had been signed, no paperwork drawn up. Loving another woman’s baby, waiting for him to become mine. Would be look like her? Would he be attached to her? Would he cry for her?

After he was born, I remember wondering how she could do it. Not in a mean, “How can you give up your baby?” sort of  way. In a “How can one person possibly exude that much courage?” sort of way. She had to be the strongest person I knew. The emotions she must have felt are completely foreign to me, but the sentiment is most definitely not lost on me. I remember wondering what I’d done to ever deserve for her to give me this child.

Friends, as much of a pure blessing as Bryce was, and is, to our lives….so is Amy. She gave us an unimaginable gift. The most generous gift I could ever dream. She entrusted us to raise her child.

See, before he was mine, he was hers. Yes, it hurts a little to think about it. It hurt me so deeply to know that in order for me to have my happy ending, she had to experience so much pain and loss. I cried so many nights, thinking about her impossible situation. It’s such a hard emotion to explain – I could never, ever blame her for wanting to keep him. I truly, truly would have understood. Even though, if she decided to do so, it would have torn my world apart.

How was it fair that Gods’ blessing to my life was such a sacrifice to hers?

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And then, we experienced His blessing and grace again on March 25, 2013, when we nervously stood in a courtroom as a judge declared Bryce officially and legally ours. Our sole responsibility, entitled to everything that we have, and as if he’d been born naturally to us. Naturally. To us! We wept in the courtroom. We felt His answer to our prayers.

He is spunky, and fun. He isn’t scared of much of anything. He is tough, and stubborn. He is tender-hearted, and so caring. He is outgoing, and talks non-stop. He loves Jesus, and wants “everybody to go to heaven”. He is smart, and so wise for his age. He likes tractors and airplanes, and wants to be a dinosaur. He is two-going-on-ten. He is the little love of my life.

As an adoptive mother, I think I will always carry a degree of wonder with me. What would his life be like, if he was with her? What kind of mother would she be? What would my life look like today? Would I have no kids, instead of two? How old will he be, when he asks to see her? What kind of relationship will they have? What about him is most like her?

See friends, adoption is so much more than just a way to parenthood. It is a lifelong commitment to ride an emotional rollercoaster. A lifelong commitment to intertwine your heart with someone else. I will always have a piece of her heart, and she will always have a place in mine. No matter how little or how often we talk, no matter whether we communicate daily or not at all, we are connected by him – and by Him.

God had a plan for Amy’s life, just like He had a plan for Bryce’s life. And for mine. And for JW’s. And even for Sam’s. Bryce & Sam were meant to be brothers. JW & I were meant to raise him. Not because we are special, or better, or more “fit” parents. That’s not it at all.

11698540_10152781266185876_220896220121655618_nBryce needed to be with us, in order to be in the place that God needed him… in order to be used for God’s glory. He was meant to be a part of our family.

For Bryce to be who God meant him to be, he needed a part of Amy. Maybe it was her fun charm. Maybe it was her outgoing personality. Maybe it was her DNA.

For Amy to get to the place that she needed to be, she needed his story to be part of her life. I don’t know the specifics of her story. I do know that many people, myself included, had prayed for her to experience a breakthrough moment in her life and situation – even before Bryce existed. Maybe God answered those prayers inadvertently through the birth, and giving up, of her baby boy. Maybe…. What I do know is that today, she is in a good place. And I believe wholeheartedly that it’s a place that she may not have made it, had things been different.

For us to learn of God’s complete grace and glory, to be reminded of His goodness, we needed to be given this child. We needed to see prayer answered tangibly. We needed to feel a certain obligation to raise him with the Lord. We needed him to complete us.

We all needed each other, in order for God to work all things together for His good. He answered many prayers, prayed over many years, in one big way on September 23rd.

Friends, it’s not about how badly you want a baby. It’s not even about what a wonderful mother you’d be. Sure, this is true. God did create us to be mothers. To love & nurture. To have olive plants around our table. To have our quiver full of arrows. But ladies, He created us to be Mommy in HIS time. untitled

If you’re considering adopting, there’s an Amy out there that needs to learn something from Him, as much as you need to learn something from her and her unborn child. There are many unanswered prayers waiting to be answered intricately in your one situation. In.due.time.

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT)