The Perfect Marriage (sarcasm intended)

Jeremiah and I are celebrating 13 years of marriage today.  I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you our love story.

Our eyes met from across the room and I instantly knew that he was the one I would marry.  Just kidding.  That’s not at all how it happened.  Here’s the real story.

I had dated the same guy all through high school and he definitely wasn’t prince charming.  Let’s skip the details and just agree that I was now damaged.  Jeremiah had been through an engagement and bad breakup.  Also damaged although in a completely different way.

I did know that I really liked him right away, but he was MUCH older than me (five years, but let’s just go with MUCH).  He was handsome, charismatic, and most of all mature.  There’s no way he would be interested in me.  Remember, I was damaged goods.

Apparently he was never going to ask me out.  He thought that I would think he was too old.  I ended up telling his brother that I liked him and one thing led to another and we were going on a date.  He was taking me to see Armageddon (remember that movie?).  He had already seen it and totally ruined the ending for me, so he took me to somehow make up for that.  You guys, when he dropped me off, he did not even pull into my driveway.  We were both late to play sand volleyball at Sonic with a bunch of our friends, so he dropped me off at the curb and didn’t even get out of the car.  Like any girl would, I assumed he didn’t like me.  Until two days later, when he showed up on my doorstep with his brother’s motorcycle.  We road around town all evening and ended up talking for hours on his porch steps.  There are very few times that life parallels a fairy tale.  This was one of them.  He reached down and touched my face and kissed me.  Then I started to feel little rain drops.  It’s as if God was saying, “Yep.  He’s the one.”  And that was the beginning of our story.

We dated for three years while I went to college.  Then we married and started a new chapter in our lives.  We were going to have a perfect marriage.  I’m sure God got a good laugh at that thought, along with every other long-time married couple.

I thought that as time went by we would get to know each other better and better and there would come a time when I knew everything about my husband.  But the reality is that people continue to change.  I’m always changing.  He’s always changing and sometimes it takes all we have to keep that from tearing us apart.  We go from moments of feeling so close to moments where we aren’t sure that we have anything in common anymore.

From the beginning, we both agreed that divorce was not an option for us.  And I can honestly say that we have never, not even for a moment, entertained that idea.  There have been plenty of times where I thought, “How are we going to make this work?”  But we both knew that God would fill the gap when neither of us could.  And He has been faithful in that.

There have been some difficult times, but there have been some A-MAZ-ING times.  I will always cherish the many trips we made to the lake in the boat we purchased shortly after we got married.  I can’t imagine life without him making me laugh even when I don’t really want to.  Moving from place to place when all we really had was each other to lean on.  Bringing our three kids into this world.  So many I could never begin to list them all here.

Our marriage isn’t perfect.  No one’s is.  Maybe it is on Facebook for one day every year, but in real life, everyday life, no one’s marriage is perfect.

But I know God is perfect and sovereign and knew exactly what He was doing when He put Jeremiah and I together.  He knew that I had to be in a bad relationship and Jeremiah had to be broken before we could find each other.  He knew we would make each other better.  That Jeremiah would help me to be more confident and outgoing.  And that I would show him how to be compassionate and sensitive.  And we know that we can’t make our marriage work without God because it’s hard and there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.

But those moments when it is perfect.  Those moments like the other night when we snuck away alone for a boat ride to watch fireworks and Jeremiah surprised me with wine.  Those moments make everything else worth while.  They’re so much better than anything in a fairytale or anything  I could have imagined.  They’re perfect.

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The D word

 

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Image from www.advicefordivorce.com

Let me start by saying that I am in no way judging those who have been through a divorce. I have no idea what your individual circumstances may be. We all have our own life stories and none of them are perfect or always played out the way we may have thought they would be. If divorce is part of your story I am sorry for what you have gone through as I doubt it was something you planned on or would have wanted in the beginning. I know that sometimes there really is no other option and it ends up being what is best for all involved. With that said, we do not believe in divorce around here, unless in extreme circumstances of course. The sanctity of marriage is not only valued but engrained in us as part of our religious beliefs. In fact, for years my husband and I referred to it as “the D word”. We labeled it as such because in our minds divorce was equivalent to a curse word that we wouldn’t speak. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with divorce in a very real way the past year as someone in our immediate family has gone through it. This forced us to face it head on and figure out how to navigate through it and explain it to our children. This has not been easy. As parents we like to find the balance between sheltering our children from the ugliness of the world while still being real and helping them learn to live among it. Keeping in mind that our oldest is only 5, our children have had very little exposure to much of the hurt that goes on in our world and daily lives. In their sweet innocent little minds the world is still a beautiful place full of love. Sure they have dealt with the normal grumpiness and bickering between kids, as siblings, and at church, playgroups, and MOPS, but overall things are still rosey in their eyes. So imagine my dilemma when needing to explain to our oldest why a certain family member would no longer be around. I wanted to be real with her but also keep it mild and age appropriate. I explained that her aunt would no longer be a member of our family because she had “made bad choices”. I was stuck and didn’t know how else to explain it. She asked what bad choices she made and I told her that part didn’t matter. There was no way I was going to tell her the whole story! She also asked why she made bad choices. I explained to her that we all make bad choices sometimes. We are presented with all kinds of choices in life and sometimes, for reasons unknown other than our natural sinful tendency, we make the wrong choice. I also explained that bad choices have varying degree of consequences. Some turn out not to be a big deal and some can completely negatively change our lives. I reassured her that her mommy and daddy loved each other very much and would always be together. I talked about what the Bible says about marriage to really hit home that she didn’t need to worry about us. We were in it for a lifetime and would always uphold our promises to each other. I left the conversation not knowing if I did it right but at least feeling confident that she knew Jason and I’s marriage was solid. That was my biggest concern and what I thought she would worry about the most. I was wrong.

A few weeks later while putting her to bed and telling her how much I love her she said “yes as long as I don’t make bad choices”. My heart sank! She had internalized my explanation as love being contingent on the choices you make and that if you make bad ones you are ousted out of the family! Mommy fail! Back to the drawing board for me as I tried to explain the difference between romantic love and parental love. Try explaining that, especially at a (then) 4 year old level. I told her that the parental/child relationship is unconditional love; that she is a gift given to me by God. She is a part of me and always will be. There is a bond between parents and their children that cannot be broken. I explained that although I will be disappointed when she makes bad choices, nothing she could ever do would change my love for her. In contrast, romantic love is chosen. Aspects of it are unconditional in that you love your spouse despite their mistakes or shortcomings, but at some point there can be so much hurt done that there irreparable damage. As a side note, I didn’t attempt to explain too much to our middle daughter who was only 2 at the time and our youngest wasn’t even born yet. Anyway, I survived again and explained the best I could. I am not sure if she fully understood or not because it is such a hard concept to understand, but I reassured her of our unconditional love for her and that is what she needed.

That was a year ago. Now we are having to explain remarriage to our children as that will be happening soon in our family as well. Ellasyn clearly understands the end of the previous marriage so the fact that there is a remarriage is not as big of a challenge. She is still grappling with the idea of a “step” mom to her cousin though. They relate from the kid’s perspective  and how it affects their cousin, so it is confusing that he will have more than one mom figure in his life now. So, again, I did my best to try to explain the role of a step parent vs a biological parent and what that will mean for their cousin. I have no idea if I am doing any of this right, but I am doing the best I can and taking it as it comes. That is how parenting works right? We just do our best and roll with whatever comes our way. I would love any suggestions on how to explain and handle these types of situations. I know divorce is rampant in our society today and with Ellasyn starting school next year she will see it much more. I want to be sure I reassure her but also explain things delicately enough that she sympathizes with divorce and is not judgmental about it. I hate the hurt that it has caused in our family, but at least she will have a little bit of a foundation on what it all means before possibly seeing it amongst her friends’ families. If only the world could be full of happy endings!signature_janae

Does beauty matter?

beauty

 

image from Kayla at bebeautiful

 

Here is my sweet, youngest daughter on her first day of 3rd grade.

Alexa BeforeI get a little sentimental looking at this picture because it is one of the last ones taken before her face was changed forever.  Last month she had an accident while she was at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  To this day, I’m still not exactly sure what happened because when it comes down to it, it was a FREAK accident.  The girls say that Porsha was flicking water off a broom and it slipped out of her hand.  It was a metal broom and the cap on the top had fallen off.  And Alexa’s face just happened to be on the other end.  I realize we are lucky for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it didn’t hit her in the eye.  That would have been devastating.

My husband answers his phone and within the first few minutes I hear him say, “Yes.  I have our insurance card with me.  Yes.  I can give it to you over the phone.”  Not the words a mother wants to hear when her kids are away.

Now, my mother-in-law raised three boys, so when she called and said that Alexa got cut and needed stitches, I completely trusted that she was right.  Before he even thought, my husband said, “Can’t you just butterfly tape it?”  She assured him that she needed to go to the emergency room.   We live two and a half hours away, so as much as I was freaking out, I knew that by the time I got to her, everything would all be over.  So we decided not to head up there.

A little later the phone rang and we put the doctor on speaker so we could both hear.  She told us that she could stitch it up but that it would “badly scar.”  I immediately broke into tears.  My baby girl will never be the same.  Not only that, but I could hear her screaming in the background.  Still.  They had driven thirty minutes to the emergency room and waited to be seen and she was still screaming.  We immediately jumped in the car and headed their direction.  It killed me that I couldn’t be there with her.  I couldn’t hold her in my arms and comfort her.  I cried most of the trip.  Then I cried harder when we finally reached her.  She was calm and tired by then because it was 11:00 at night.  I hugged my mother-in-law and we cried together.  I can only imagine what she had been going through the last few hours.  I wanted to tell her it was not her fault, that it was an accident, that she shouldn’t feel bad, but we needed to hurry.  So I hugged her and tried to smash those thoughts into a sentence or two and off we went.

I sat in the back seat and held Alexa as we drove back to the much larger hospital near our home.  She fell asleep and so did Porsha, Devin, and my niece who were also with us.  We arrived at the emergency room at 1:00 a.m.  They were so friendly there.  The lady that checked us in went out of her way to find a bed away from the waiting room for the kids to lie down in.  They got us in quickly and the nurses in the back were very friendly also.  They even got the kids slushies.  All small gifts God gave us to help us get through this. Another small miracle was that Devin slept through the whole thing! That boy has never been very good at sleeping anywhere besides his very own bed, so it was a complete gift from God that he slept as we carried him and slept in chairs and he slept through every commotion that the emergency room threw at us. He was an angel.  All the kids were.20140715-161525-58525334.jpg20140715-161524-58524537.jpg

The doctors there told us that no matter what we did at this point, it would scar.  It wasn’t until they took the bandage off and started cleaning it out that I realized just how deep it was.  It was surprising that it hadn’t gone all the way through her cheek.  In fact, afterwards she said she could feel the stitches with her tongue on the inside of her mouth.  She ended up with 3 stitches on the inside and 18 stitches on the outside.  This is what she looked like when it was all done.

 

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When everyone saw it they all reacted pretty much the same way. “That is much worse than I thought it would be.” And it was. Who would have thought a simple broom could do that much damage?

What shocked me more than that was her strength through it all. Right away she defended her sister and made sure we knew it was an accident. She was worried that we would be mad at Porsha.

Then as we sat in the er waiting to get her face stitched up there was a commotion in the hall. A girl running around screaming that her boyfriend had passed out. Now, we were there in the middle of the night. Chances are good that he had just had too much to drink or overdosed on something, but sweet Alexa says to me when I ask how she’s doing, “I just feel bad for that guy that passed out.” That girl. Always thinking of others, even when she’s in pain.

As the days passed I could tell that she didn’t fully understand that her cheek would never be the same. I started trying to explain to her what a plastic surgeon was (at that time we thought we would be seeing one within a month). She told me that if there would be needles, then she didn’t want to go. I told her that it might be necessary and she said to me, “Mom, it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. It’s whats on the inside that counts.” The same sentence I have been telling her since she was born.

It stopped me in my tracks. I have been very purposeful about not lying to my children. So much so that we have been careful about how we approached Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. And at that moment I realized that I had been lying to my daughters about beauty. I had been lying to them by telling them that it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. Because the truth is, it does matter. It’s easier to be pretty in this world. People will treat you better, be nicer. I know that stinks. I wish it wasn’t that way. I know God only cares about the inside and I only care about the inside and probably a few people in this world, but generally speaking, it does matter. What do you think? Tell me I’m jaded. Please tell me that my life experiences have steered me wrong. I want so badly for my girls to live in a world where looks don’t matter. I want Alexa to be completely undaunted by her inevitable scar. I want them to know that they’re perfect just the way they are. I want that for them…and for me.

Here she is today.  Strong.  Confident.  Beautiful.  Please don’t let this world change that about her.

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You know you’re aging when…

aging

Just a little humor to start off your Monday with a few observations I have had. The pictures above are from our college days (left) and last fall (right).

-you need at least 2 cups of coffee every morning and sometimes more in the afternoon

-some part of you aches almost every morning

-you find more and more gray hairs

-you can’t go tubing without throwing your back and neck out

-your husband and his friends talk about the weather A LOT

-your husband no longer needs an alarm to wake up early

-you actually think about the injury risk of activities before doing them

-you get excited about house projects

-you ask for money to complete said house projects for birthdays and Christmas

-you still think # means pound or number instead of hashtag

-physically, gravity’s affects are taking a toll-enough said

-if you stay up too late you pay for it the next day

-your parents are now the age that you remember your grandparents being

-your get togethers with friends look very different and now involve a lot of little people running around

-a favorite topic while driving somewhere is which roads you should take to get there

-you somehow always end up at a retail store (sometimes Lowes, sometimes Dick’s Sporting Goods, and sometimes even just Wal-mart) on your date nights because it’s just so awesome to be able to shop without your kids

-you seriously consider buying anti-wrinkle cream and start to understand (even though I’ll never go there) why people get plastic surgery

-an alone trip to the grocery store is a rare treat

-you know what VCRs and cassette tapes are

-you talk about the “good ole days” and how the world just isn’t the same as it used to be

-you buy your spouse a ear and nose hair trimmer for a gift

-all of your friends are now married off

-you have had the same hairstyle for 10+ years

I know there are so many more but I am done thinking about how I am aging and choosing to believe that I am only as old as I choose to be. Ha! Besides, I love where I am at in life and everything that has gotten me here, so I guess aging is just part of it. Do you have more to add to the list?

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Lost?

My husband, Jeremiah, is one of those people that believes as long as he knows what direction he’s going, then he’s not really lost.  I however am a mapquest kind of person.  I will follow that thing to the T even if I know it means going out of my way because it probably knows something I don’t.  I’m pretty terrible with directions, so I figure mapquest knows better than me.

A while back, we were at my husband’s parent’s house.  We decided to drive around the lake that is nearby to see how the water levels were and reminisce about all our trips to that lake when we were in college.  His brother and wife went with us.  We all hung out a lot together in college including many trips to this lake.  It was really fun to spend some time with them without all our kids around.

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Jeremiah decided to take a “back way” to get home.  I already knew that wasn’t good.  That is never good.  That means he’s going to head in the general direction of his parents house in hopes that we somehow magically end up there.  He basically knows nothing except we are here and we need to go in that direction to get there.  So we headed down a country road.

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It was fine for a while, but then that country road kept getting smaller and smaller.  And then the road started to look more like grass then gravel.  I’m pretty sure mapquest would not have recognized this road.  I can hear her now, “Recalculating.  Turn around and make your way to the nearest road.  Recalculating.  Turn around and make your way to the nearest road.” etc.

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Before we knew it, it looked like we were driving in the middle of a pasture.

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I know you can’t tell, but my husband assured me that we were still driving on a road.  I believe he was using that term very loosely.  Eventually we ran into this.

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Did I mention that I get car sick?  Like really, really easily.  Occasionally Jeremiah chooses to “forget” this fact and pretend like I enjoy driving around in the middle of nowhere.  I mean look at this smirk on his face.  He was having such a good time!

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We did make it to his parents house.  And he will still tell you that he was never lost.  Although, that is using his definition of the word lost and not mine(and mapquests and probably the majority of the world, just sayin’).  Luckily I had some snacks with me, so I didn’t actually get sick this time.  And it was nice to look at the beautiful prairie for a little while.  Please don’t tell my husband I said that or he might think we need to go on these crazy excursions more often.  This get-sick-in-the-car, mapquest following gal can’t take all that.

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