In just a few days February will be upon us and, with it, a slew of anniversaries in my home.
February has always been a big month for us.
It’s the month that Ted left the Marine Corps in 2013. This wasn’t a decision that I had a part in, but it set the stage for us to meet a couple months later.
We were married in February of 2014. We said our vows in front of many friendly faces and have spent the last 7 years discovering more about each other and our respective communities.
February of 2015 brought the news of our first baby and we spent the next 9 months preparing, as best as possible, for that addition.
February of 2017 we said goodbye to a baby born too soon and February of 2018 we welcomed a cheerful baby girl.
February 2019 we slowly started moving things into our new home. Which has been throughly well lived in since February of 2020.
We celebrated an introvert Valentine day in our home, as we have always enjoyed slow moments with each other. And, well, 2020 brought a lot of those.
It’s actually been a great year for our marriage, even though it was a rough one for the world.
I’m so thankful I have someone who celebrates with me well in the big moments, grieves well in the trenches, and walks deliberately in the mundane moments.
I’m thankful for all our Februarys together, big moments, small moments, and all the cabin fever craziness.
It’s a blessing I could have missed easily had I thrown all my energy into the life I planned for myself.
My plan was to experience a childhood sweetheart sort of romance. I planned to marry a best friend or someone I had known my whole life. At least someone who I had known for over a year.
The love story I wanted to write for myself didn’t involve the heartache and messiness of the one I lived. It, also, didn’t involve the redemption. The chance to encourage someone past what they’ve been told about themselves, to love someone through their mess. To be loved fully, completely. The ugly chapters of my story and all. There was a wisdom gained in the trenches that helps us see how lucky we are to have each other. Helps us understand what’s really worth fighting about and that loving someone means loving them through their fears and failures.
If I could pinpoint one moment when I knew I had met the man I would marry…it was the first time I cried on him.
In all reality there were a dozen little moments leading up to this, but this was the time I knew I had something good. Something whole.
He had done something to upset me. It’s been so long, I truly don’t know what it was. The aftermath so clearly overshadowed it. I just remember that I wanted to confront him. I didn’t want to be a pushover, again, and I needed to work up the courage to tell him.
Here’s the thing, though. My last relationship had been semi -long distance and extremely unhealthy. It had seemed good, golden, until the first time I let my disappointment be heard and then it was a string of games. The long distance aspect brought its unique challenges. I would try to call to talk it over, he wouldn’t answer or call back. I’d wait to discuss it in person and then it would be “too late to bring it up.” I’d try to send a message and be told “that wasn’t the way to discuss this.”
The blame was always shifted from what had hurt me to the improper way I handled it. No matter that I exhausted every option open to me. There was usually a lot of yelling and if I let any tears fall, I was accused of manipulation and it started all over again.
So flashforward to me being upset with Ted, about whatever it was, and working up the courage to tell him. I was terrified of ruining what seemed to be a good thing and, yet, knew it couldn’t be good if I couldn’t talk to him.
So I sat shakily in front of him and kept squeaking out the beginning of sentences. He, being the observant man he is, knew something was wrong and pressed me.
“Are you upset?”
*nod* sniffle* snort*
“Can you tell me? I want to know, I want to help. I want to know why you’re upset”
And, let’s just say, the floodgates opened. All the years of tears I had held back poured out and mascara stains now soaked his shirt as I told him in heaving gulps what I was mad about. I apologized for the mascara stains and he said it was more important that I talked to him and I knew.
I knew this was a good thing, a redemptive and beautiful relationship. So different than the one I thought I would have, and so beautiful for that very reason.
Our next unexpected moment was the birth of our first child. I can’t say it was unplanned because I wasn’t preventing it and we were husband and wife, after all. It was simply sooner than anticipated.
I had gotten off any form of birth control with the expectation that it would take months to get out of my system. I have always had some irregularities that were supposed to make it more challenging for me to get pregnant and had a sister battling infertility.
I prepared Ted that it would probably be awhile before I’d actually get pregnant. Then I told him a couple, short weeks later
“So….I was wrong. How do you feel about meeting your baby in 9 months?”
We were excited but nervous too. A jolt of “well, I guess we are doing this.”
Our first was a colicky baby. Which I’ve written about in probably half of my other blog posts, so I’ll give it a rest here. Except to say he wasn’t a “bad baby”. That always rubs me the wrong way, he was just a baby who needed a lot of attention. It was draining and rewarding and slightly terrifying when I realized the magnitude of it. But we pushed through that first year and fell so much more in love with each other and that squishy little bundle.
We decided to try for another. Actually “try” this time. Which I assumed would go as quickly as last time. Instead it took about a year of trying only to become pregnant with a baby who didn’t make it earth side.
This was certainly something we didn’t expect and it was hard. Hard in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. It was an early loss and it seemed like something I should brush off and yet I felt it. Fully, completely.
I can only assume some of that came from the emotional healing at the onset of this relationship. I’ve sometimes wondered if my husband regrets allowing me to open up the floodgates because it can mean a lot of tears for him. But it is always better to get them out.
That time was chock full of bittersweet. I was grieving a baby I never got to meet and wondering who he or she would have been. I was dealing with bitterness towards all the other pregnant bellies around me, especially those who didn’t seem to grasp the blessing of it. I was overwhelmed by the community of women who had walked the same road and showed up to take my hand. I was blown away by the comfort of God in a storm and the anchor he gave me in Ted. A man who cried with me, unafraid to grieve and mourn. A man who scooped me in his arms and carried me from the bathroom to the car as the bleeding became too serious and I couldn’t stand. Who showed me love, tenderness and adoration when I was a complete physical and emotional mess.
Beauty in the brokenness is always such an amazing thing. It doesn’t erase the pain of what we are experiencing, but it adds a tender memory alongside the hardship. Existing together in a strange sort of harmony.
Next up on the list, the baby girl. I really can’t say she was at all unexpected. We had tried, tried, and cried before she came along.
I suppose the unexpected came, once more, in how quickly she arrived. I became pregnant one month after our miscarriage. Which means I was pregnant for 12 out of 13 consecutive months, if anyone is keeping score. That felt like the longest wait in the world.
There was also the aspect of a different baby than we expected. I was very aware of the fact that my body could not have physically carried both children and that one was here, because the other was not. It was a strange emotional dance, but I could not imagine our home with any other child.
Our little blue eyed girlie came just after valentines day I’m 2018 and wrapped us all around her finger. She was full on laughing within a few weeks and lives to laugh or make people laugh to this day.
Both our children pride themselves on being comedians and brings tears of joy, laughter, or frustration to my eyes daily.
Our lives are quiet and simple here. I can often feel that I’m missing in things to contribute to conversation. The enthusiasm with which I share potty training success stories may be the best example of that.
My life can feel dull to share on social media or talk about with friends who are traveling and exploring. I’m even more of a homebody with my kids than I anticipated. I planned to explore all the time, but have maintained a devotion to nap schedules that can override that.
To me, though, life inside these walls is anything but dull. It is bursting with love and laughter and wrestling with the flaws of humanity. So often my children’s struggles reveal areas of sin in my own heart and it is a constant journey of refinement.
Moving into our new home was a very expected transition. It was a year of planning, building, choosing paint colors and finishes. A year of holding down the fort with kids while my husband worked a full time job and spent after hours at our new house.
The kids briefly went through a period of calling the old house “mom’s house” and the new one “dad’s house” which I hoped was not concerning any Sunday school teachers.
It was a busy and rewarding time. The most unexpected moments probably came from the dents in the wall two days after moving in and wondering if my bright white doors were the wrong choice. It has been a process of dying to the desire to keep up with the Joneses while still encouraging stewardship in our children. Loving discipline and correction but placing hearts over appearances. Which should be easy, but can be really frustrating when you’re watching money spin down the drain.
Well, I think that about brings us up to speed to the year of the pandemic.
Unexpected for all.
We cut a vacation short because we were traveling when lockdowns started. As much as any Alaskan dreams of being stranded in Hawaii, we decided to come home. We were incredibly fortunate that my husband still had a job to go to and didn’t feel like gambling that.
We missed out on seeing Ted’s sister get married in person and a trip to Florida. She was so kind to make it available on line, but it is a sad thing to miss.
There are countless small things we said no to and a shift in daily living. The pandemic aspect has been hard.
There was also the whole adventure with my dad. A slow growing pain, which turned into a trip to the ER. Which turned into a cancer diagnosis and prognosis of 6 months to a year. Which turned into a last minute flight to Seattle for newer, life saving medicine. Which turned into me leaving the nest for two weeks and donating some stem cells. Which was all part of the most miraculous cancer survivor story that I’ve ever had a part of. No one would know to look at the man what last year held for him.
Through that, I saw my husband rise in support of me and my family. He stocked their woodshed to the brim, took care of all the heavy lifting lake chores, fixed up snow machines, and plowed driveways. He showed me incredible amounts of love by the way he loved my family because the joining of two hearts is never just about those two hearts.
He was so incredibly supportive of my journey to Washington and sent me sweet videos of the kids and made time to chat with me regularly. I missed him and the kids something fierce, but had full confidence that they were well cared for.
It’s been a year of the unexpected. Of hardship, growth, and deepening love.
Through it all, one thing is clear.
When I let go of all the noise about the life I didn’t expect. I’m blessed by the quiet beauty of a life I didn’t deserve.