It never seems to take very long in conversation for it to come up that I’m married to my high school sweetheart. And, when it does, I can determine pretty quickly which type of girl I’m talking to. There are the romantics- girls with planners and hearts full of marriage dreams from the time they are young. They grab my hands and beg to know the details of our young love. And then there are the strategists- girls with journals full of their life’s dreams and the To Do lists that are going to take them there. They give a half smirk and make comments like, “Well that must be nice for you.” I smile to myself as I watch their reactions because it becomes clear that each has their own ideas about me. One squeals with delight over how similar we must be. The other withholds groans thinking we could never have anything in common. I smile because neither truly understands. It would seem that only a hopeless romantic would meet her husband at 15 years old, but this love story is not like the others. This love story was written by God, and God always knows what’s best for His girls.
My friend Mia, who I met by total happenstance- but who has all of the same passions as me- joined me one summer afternoon for coffee. We were sharing teaching tips and writing topics between sips when we paused to ask each other the hard questions… the deep questions. How are you? What are you struggling with in this season? What is God showing you? As Mia opened up, it became apparent that-while her relationship testimony was the exact opposite of mine- the Lord was as present and as active in that area of her life as I knew Him to be in mine. I watched her face light up as she shared the details of the hard, but empowering journey she’s been on. The same details she has now given me permission to share here…
“I remember the summer I had my first kiss. “Just do it. You haven’t had your first kiss yet!” My best friend said. Is there really a perfect time for a kiss?” I asked myself. I kissed the boy anyways, because, well, peer pressure. And of course, I liked him, so why not? It’s summer, I am boy crazy as it is, let’s do this! Ah, but summer love, they don’t always last.
When I was in my twenties, I always had a crush or two. I went out on dates, I had a couple summer flings here and there. The twenties for me, were fascinating times. Every weekend was spent with my girls for the most part, and I was able to focus on college, and becoming a teacher (but with the desire still strong in me, to be married someday). I had full confidence that I’d be teaching by 25 and married by 26 (clearly, my plan did not pan out that way). Day after day, I was wondering what could have gone wrong for me to end up still single when entering my thirties.
Four months into my 31styear (just recently), something SNAPPED in me. I was tired of constantly draining myself of the what if’s and the why me’s. I hardly harboured the right heart attitude, and maybe you can relate (insert the woe is me feelings) which is actually more exhausting than believing God for His very best, even though I’d have to wait a little longer; it is not easy, I am sure you understand. I became free to find JOY out of this season, and allow God to prune areas that would be necessary for growth, when entering the next season He has for me. All the while, realizing that finding who I was and who I wanted to be, in my early adult years, will actually be beneficial for when I am ready to be in a long, committed relationship with a man. Disclaimer: even though I found ways to experience true JOY from God, there have been days where I felt the emotions, “getting in the feels”, if you will. In those moments I re evaluate the situation, and I realize that I don’t have to stay parked there.
Now, I don’t know everything there is to know about this life of faith, but what I do know is that out of season’s of waiting new things evolve. I had time for different forms of ministry (which can be likened to starting this blog, and I joined forces with other like minded ladies, who were on the same adventure of believing God for a spouse.
Let me tell you, how happy I am that I did not get married by 26. I personally, would have not been ready. I had some growing up to do myself, that being with another human would have distracted me from the growth process. And even though some days I feel lonelier than others, I am strengthened when I reach out to friends who understand, and who can pray with me.
On this crazy adventure, I’ve learned, it’s okay to embrace a different season from everyone else, it’s okay to not be where you thought you were going to be. It’s okay to be upset that you’re not quite where you want to be— that sets the tone for growth (those uncomfortable, life changing moments, ya know?). That sets the tone to build your faith.
The goal of this post is to share with you my story, in every sense, to encourage you in your story.
The beauty behind this testimony now looking back, is that I am free from asking, “when is this going to happen” ? to embracing this new outlook of, “I thank God that someday this will happen, but in the meantime, I am enjoying every single moment. Clinging to faith, even when you can’t see the fruition of what you’re waiting for, can be challenging but in the long run very refreshing. Marriage is a HUGE responsibility and it comes with great purpose (and will also come with new experiences to learn and grow from). Even if I won’t always be ready FULLY for every new season, my heart will be aligned with what the new season will bring.”
It’s so encouraging to hear Mia share her testimony and the way the Lord has used it to do the necessary work in her heart when I know the work He’s had to do in mine too. Seriously, I was hardly the hopeless romantic. I had plans to pursue a career first and then maybe a family sometime in my 30’s, but God had plans to introduce me to a love that would rush in unexpectedly and sweep me off my feet. A love that would help me better understand His.
So, Justin walked through the threshold of my doorway in the local hospital’s Pediatric Surgery Unit when I was 15 years old. I had only met him once before, 5 months earlier, and I was certainly not in the mood to see him again now. Not while I was busy figuring out how to handle this severe new “Crohn’s Disease” diagnosis. But Justin was a cancer survivor and no stranger to hospitals himself, so when he heard that I had been admitted he knew I’d need a friend. He showed up unannounced that first day, and then every one of the 9 days after until I was finally discharged. Home visits began shortly after and, eventually, it became that whenever Justin was not at work he was with me.
“You both must have known just what you wanted… you know, to get married so young.” I hear that a lot.
The feelings Justin had developed for me throughout those days in the hospital and the months thereafter were no secret to me. Justin knew what he wanted, and I guess you could say that I did too. I wanted the freedom to decide my own future, not have some disease decide it for me. And if I couldn’t have that, then I at least wanted time to process what my life might look like now. The idea of a boyfriend, on top of it all, felt overwhelming. Like another hijacking of my life. So much had just been taken from me, how could I possibly give away anymore of myself? I wanted to be the first in my family to leave for college and, beyond those years, the first in my family to embark on worldwide adventures. You know, whatever kind of worldwide adventures college graduates have. That was the one small piece I hadn’t quite figured out.
Well, I should say there were actually two small pieces I hadn’t quite figured out yet because the second was just how love worked, and what a wild thing it really is. How it just kind of sweeps you off your feet and takes you with it. I found myself in a relationship with Justin one year after being discharged from that pediatric surgery unit. He stood by my side throughout the next three years of sickness and, to prove he couldn’t be scared away, he knelt at the bottom of his staircase one December morning with a ring in hand and the promise of forever on his lips. Fast forward another two years and we were gathered before friends and family in a small chapel vowing to spend our lives serving one another in love and pushing one another on towards our dreams. I was 21 years old-a junior in college.
As of today, Justin and I have been together for 10 years. We’ve been married for 5 of those 10 years. When I say together, I mean no break-ups, no breaks. Together through it all. Justin was there on the day I won an adventure scholarship during my senior year of high school- he helped proof read my essay- and he was also the one dropping me off at the Miami International Airport for that week-long, sea-kayaking adventure just after my graduation. He was in my hospital room on the day doctors told me I had Crohn’s Disease, and he was in my hospital room five years later on the day doctors told us there was no trace of Crohn’s Disease left in my body. He worked full time and took on more chores than most men as I worked to finish my degree; and he was there with a bouquet of flowers in hand on the day I graduated Magna Cum Laude. Even now, he is the one carving out quiet writing time and pushing me to attend expensive out-of-state conferences as I chase my dreams of becoming a published author.
It has never mattered that I crossed “Get Married” off my list before “Graduate College,” or any of the other dreams written on it. Love has never kept me from any of my goals. If anything, it has made the process of accomplishing each one better because it’s given me both someone to stand beside me and encourage me through the hard moments and someone to celebrate with when they’re over and the goal has been met.
I understand it all a little better now than I used to. God says that He has loved us with an everlasting love. That means even before He created us, He loved us. Even knowing the mistakes we would eventually make or the struggles we would have, He loved us. Even now, He loves us. Love is unconditional. And when you love someone, you only want what’s best for them. You want them to have the desires of their heart, but you also understand sometimes there’s a heart issue that needs to be worked out along the way. Because part of wanting the best for someone is also wanting to see them become the best version of themselves.
Throughout years of sickness and much uncertainty about my life, I had clenched my fists hard around the things I thought I should have. And maybe I wasn’t all wrong in doing so, but I became unwilling to surrender any part of my life to God. I wanted total control, and that’s where things needed some straightening out. Cue Justin, the man God would use to have me drop my guard and embrace His plan for my life. But also the man God would use to show me that love is unconditional and beautiful. The man that would continue to stand beside me even in my ugliest moments. Even in all of my little temper tantrums about what I thought I deserved, so that I could look back one day and say “I ended up with so much more than I deserve.”
Girls, when your love story is written by God, it will look unlike anyone else’s. It’s likely that it will look different than even you imagine.I learned that tucked away in the corner of a small coffee shop as Mia shared her story, and I hung on every detail. That’s because God wants to write you a love story through which He can give you the desires of your heart, but His first priority is always going to be to make your heart pure. Only then could you fully receive and reciprocate love in its most genuine form. As you pray for your own love story, let your heart be reminded of the true purpose of love and marriage. It’s definitely not a checklist item, I’ve learned. It’s not the means to an always perfect, totally enamored life either. No, love and marriage are much more than that. Marriage is a covenant with God through which we come to better understand His unconditional, steadfast love for His bride, the church. It’s messy, sure. Some days we don’t feel like loving at all. We don’t always get what we want. But through this covenant, we draw on God’s strength and we get what we need. We love and we learn to stand steadfast in that love the way He always has.