No Room for Groceries

No Room for Groceries

I remember walking through the aisles of the grocery store when Micah, my first child, was just a little infant. I struggled to bounce him in the carrier to keep him from fussing and could hardly manage to get through half my grocery list before we were both breaking down. Then every once in awhile, I would pass another mom with 4 or more kids and my eyes would automatically glaze over. I could not imagine ever being in those shoes, shoes that were tattered and frayed at every corner and stained with mud from playing in the backyard yet still the same pair she mindlessly slipped on everyday because there just was no time to pick another pair, much less buy a new one.

Yet today, I was that mom. With my trusted gray and white sneakers which have also gone through its own war, I mustered up the courage to take all 4 kids to the store for the first time. When we pulled in, I snagged the nearest two seater kid cart (thanking God for the person who invented it), and very strategically slid two in behind the play wheels, put one in the main part of the cart, and instructed the older one carefully to walk beside me. My plan was genius. That is, until I looked down and realized… there was no room for the groceries.

Before I had even entered the store, my cart was already full of these little human beings who I took a moment to look at in disbelief….where did they come from and how did I get here? Yes, my cart was completely full of them, my minivan was full of their carseats, my home was full of their toys, and their rooms were filled with mattresses and clothes and stuffed animals and books.

Slightly overwhelmed, I think I could have panicked because there was so much I needed to get. But instead, I took a deep breath and commanded myself to give thanks because there was SO MUCH MORE to be thankful for and not only the children, but the means I have been given to care for each and every one of them.

Especially since our latest addition, I have absolutely MARVELED at the support we have been given since we have taken in this little boy. Although we have the honor of being the ones hosting this child and being in the trenches with him, I am realizing more and more how we are just one small part of the puzzle and how there are SO MANY PEOPLE who are just as vital in caring for this boy and seeing him through. I cannot stress this enough. WE COULD NOT DO THIS ALONE.

And to clear up any confusion, this is not foster care. It is called Safe Families which is a national movement of Christians and churches all around the country who are stepping forward and answering the call to care for at risk children in our community BEFORE they are placed into foster care. Similar to foster care, these children are placed into a host home while their parents are working on getting back on their feet, but the difference is, there is a NETWORK of people all playing different roles to love the child AND their family with the love of Christ. Our family, specifically, is playing the role of temporarily hosting children, but others who are not have come around us in so many different ways playing their own various role.

For example, when the honeymoon period ended for us with our new little guy and the reality of not being with his biological family set in, he acted out in extreme ways. Rightfully so, he was scared and began to go into survival mode, lashing out at all of us aggressively with claws, fangs, and more. It was a trying period and so easily, we became feeble and tired. Then on top of the behavior which we hardly knew how to handle, we had to get clothes for him, prepare food for the entire family, figure out rides, get him situated into a daycare, and pretty much felt like anything we used to do normally had to take the back seat. The question of “could we really do this” set in with dark clouds.

Then our network within Safe Families reached out to us. All of them pretty much strangers whom we hardly knew, I wasn’t sure how much help they could really be, and at the same time, I feared asking for too much help. But I didn’t even have to ask. Very quickly, along with our church and our friends, these “strangers” came around us and began to offer us supports in every way, just like family would. In the same way we invited this boy into our family, they invited us into their family network, and it has been such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ loving each other selflessly.

Now, our home is full of not only the food and clothing and other items they have given us, but with their prayers, their love, and their unconditional encouragement. What’s more is that since we have been given such lavish support and the ability to focus solely on loving this boy, he has been FLOURISHING. Our house has not only regained order, but it has been thriving and has been even fuller with joy than before this all started.

I am humbled to be part of such an amazing movement and sincerely thank all those who are involved. If ANYONE has a heart for these families and children who are at risk of being separated and becoming orphans, there is a role for everyone in Safe Families, and the best part is, Christ is glorified.

Please contact me if you would like to get involved. It’s not just a ministry or a movement…this is real people with real lives who need a real chance. One is sleeping peacefully down the hall from me this very moment and I seriously feel like I am hosting angels in my home, if not Christ Himself. I am overwhelmed.

 

 

Our First 100 Days

Our First 100 Days

It has been 24 hours since we brought home an enormous bundle of joy, packaged inside of this little 3 year old boy–our first placement. I’ve heard many stories of foster children and adopted children before, but they varied so much that we really did not know what to expect. At the very least, I tried to brace myself for a difficult transition by reading books on trauma, making phone calls to my support network, and praying desperately on my knees for patience and love. After all, no matter how much love we were ready to give him, the reality was that he was being torn apart from the only family that he knew and being thrown into a complete stranger’s home. And I was right–it did not start off easy.

Walking out of the social services office, the caseworker followed us to our car, doing her best to not let the flailing, screaming, kicking body fall out of her arms and onto the concrete below. He was crying bloody murder as if we were kidnapping him, and it sure did look that way. Once we got him in the car, it took both my husband and I to use all our strength to hold him down and strap him into the car seat. We both broke a sweat and tears began to break through the huffing and puffing as I wondered to myself, what in the world are we doing.

A few rows away in that parking lot was his mother, equally distraught, and they both screamed after one another, trembling with rage and confusion, as we finally drove away. I was sitting in the back seat next to him while he screamed the entire hour ride home and my husband and I just glanced at each other with helpless eyes through the rear view mirror.

But then it was done. As we pulled into our neighborhood, his crying suddenly ceased as we joked over his confession that he pee’d in his pull-up. We laughed and wiped away our tears and since then have become the best of friends. He has fit right in with our rowdy family of 5 (7 including the grandparents) and has stolen each of our hearts, even Grandpa Kim who this morning could not even look at him with dry eyes.

Everyone had woken up before him and was already eating pancakes when he was still fast asleep on his super hero bed that we prepared for him. I sat there beside him waiting for him to wake up because I did not want him to open his eyes and be afraid. Soon, my daughter Kindle came in and sat on my lap looking with me at this new person in our home. I asked, “isn’t he amazing?” to which she replied, “he’s beautiful.”

And as I sat there looking at him, I felt my heart torn apart. On one hand, I could feel my heart had miraculously already expanded to love this new little guy in my life as if he were one of my own, but on the other hand, I felt the pain of his past and the pain of his unknown future. This placement was meant to only be for 100 days and while I never thought this would happen, I began to fear the moment I will have to let him go.

100 days. That is his mother’s deadline to get her life in order and then a decision will be made. The “ideal” situation would be that she will be doing great and he and his brother and sisters will be able to go home. But will she be able to give him the best? Will she be able to love, protect, and teach him the way that he needs her to? Will she speak life into him, pray for him, and comfort him when he needs her to? All my motherly instincts kicked in and I wasn’t sure if I could let him go.

But of course, I will have no choice. If all goes according to plan, he will return to her in 100 days. So I began to surrender his life back to the Lord…that it wouldn’t be my will or my love in his life, but that GOD will be with him wherever he goes. I had to lay his life down at the cross.

Then, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the best for him really is to be with his mom. The mom God gave him. The mom, who like me, is broken and makes mistakes. The mom who I can so easily judge to be inferior for the bad decisions and shortcomings in her life. The mom whom when he woke up, this little boy immediately called out for.

He really needs his mom, I realized, and I have made up my mind to pray for her. To pray that she will be restored, healed, and made whole in these next 100 days. To pray that she will meet Christ in a new way and find her identity and the strength and love to care for the beautiful children she has been entrusted with. Yes, I will pray for her and hope in God for what He can do in her life, and in the meantime, I will also love this precious life in our house and hope that he walks away with a little more than what he came here with because he has already given us so much. He has changed our lives forever and I am so thankful for this time.

Thank you God for how you bring families together and how you keep families together as well. Above all, I trust you Lord.

Lord, Help Us All

Lord, Help Us All

The other day, I had a bad mommy moment. I rebuked the devil in my son, Micah.

He is the oldest of three and although he is still only five, I expect more from him than the others. On the norm, he is really a very good kid. Kind, thoughtful, and gentle. He definitely has his moments though, and his attitude as of late has hardly been tolerable. It has been terrible actually and has caused the rest of us to live in a constant, thick, dark cloud. It’s difficult to even breathe when he is in one of his disgruntled states.

This particular day, he had been grumpy all morning and was taking it out on his little sister, Kindle. Back and forth they went, and I could hear Micah from around the corner with his angry, bossy, big brother voice, taunting her about how his Legos were better than hers. I was trying to change baby Moses’ diaper and get him dressed as quickly as possible in between screaming over threats to put the two older ones in time out, but my words couldn’t match their escalating bickering. Feeling incredibly outnumbered, I just hoped it would soon die down, but of course it didn’t. It only ended when Kindle broke down into bitter tears and screams from Micah wrestling her to the ground in order to snatch the wings off of her Lego creation which was now broken into a dozen pieces.

I HAD it. That was it. I no longer could stomach this ridiculous tirade that was running the show in our house day in and day out. I ran to the room they were in, grabbed my over grown son under one arm (mommy strength multiplies when angry, I tell you), and marched back to my room. I had him stand against the wall with his hands up in the air while I grabbed the heaviest object I could find. My New King James Study Bible was in arms reach. Perfect. With fire in my eyes, I handed the Bible to him and demanded he hold it up high in the air. If he lowered it even an inch, he was warned that he would be spanked big time.

Then I began to yell. “What is wrong with you?! Why are you being so mean?!!! Tell me!!!!”

He then burst into tears, but only for a second because I interrupted by snapping sternly, “DON’T YOU CRY!”

As he whimpered and struggled to hold back tears, I had no sympathy. Instead, I asked him if his cries were because he felt sorry for what he did and how he hurt his sister or just because he was getting punished.

Snot dripping down over his mouth, he spoke through sobs, “b….b….b….because….I’m…getting punishhhhhhedddddd.”

WRONG ANSWER. “Put your hands up higher! You don’t care your sister is hurt and sad?? You don’t care you are making everyone upset everyday?!”

“N…n…n…ooooooo.”

“You only care about yourself?!”

“Yes!”

Such ugly truth.

The entire time, I was livid. Fuming. Then in a failed attempt to calm myself down, I told him we were going to pray…but maybe that wasn’t such a good idea because this was my prayer. Looking straight into my trembling son’s eyes, I muttered, “In the name of Jesus, I REBUKE YOU SATAN.”

Immediately, I regretted it. And my husband, who almost never questions my disciplining, paused from his work and gave me this questionable look.

Now let’s pause. I wasn’t calling my son Satan. Even at his worst, of course I know he is not Satan. But in the moment, all I could think about was how SINFUL he was and really, the next thing that popped up into my mind was the devil. Well it certainly was not God anyway. So I rebuked him…him being the devil.

But now here was my son with eyes suddenly big and round with shock. He was staring blankly back at me and probably wondering why I was calling him Satan. And I had to explain.

At this point, I was completely sobered from my wrathful outburst and now feeling completely guilty myself. What did I just say to my son??

Both of us quiet, I gathered him into my arms on my lap and kissed the top of his head. For a while, I did not know what to say. “Lord, help us,” was all I could think of followed by, “sorry Micah…I’m not calling you Satan.”

Then I kept thinking. Both of our actions and words had been awful, and while I have always known my own personal need for a Savior, I had almost forgotten my son was no different. He is no longer just a little baby that is completely harmless and innocent. No, he is a big boy. He is a person, a human being who should know right from wrong, and I realized he, too, will one day stand before God the judge.

And what was I going to teach him now? Could I tell him? Would he understand? I’ve told him the gospel many times before, but this felt different than just telling him a story. So I spoke again. With words I thought a five-year-old could understand, I told him why Jesus came.

I started by thanking him for telling me the truth that he didn’t care about his sister, but that that was very wrong. I told him that the truth is, we all do bad things sometimes, and sometimes, we don’t even WANT to do what is right. We are supposed to love each other, but because we are people, we all have sin that makes us bad people who do bad things, and mommy makes mistakes all the time too. The problem is, this is God’s world because He made it and God is GOOD. He is SO good, that when there is something bad, even just a little bad, we should all be punished with time-outs and spankings FOREVER. But God loved us so much that He decided that Jesus will get the time-out instead of us. His time-out was on the cross and it hurt so much, but He didn’t want you to do that so He did it for you. So now, since we are free from our punishment, all we can do is thank Jesus for what He did for us and do our best to follow what He tells us to do and He will always help us.

By this time, Micah was squirming and asking if he could go play, and I was choking up thinking more about my own salvation. So I released him and got on my knees. I prayed and pleaded with God that He would meet with Micah personally one day. That one day, Micah would know His true need for a Savior and that he would surrender his life to Him and even live to serve Him and His people with all his heart.

I knew these were the same prayers of my parents and grandparents and countless others who prayed for me as I grew up. These are the prayers that brought me to where I am today, saved and set free. Now a lover of Christ and mother to these beautiful children, I hope with all my heart that I will one day be able to see the answer to my prayers come to pass in each of their God-given lives. Until then, I will never cease to lift them up as burning incense from the prayers of my heart and lips. Lord, I know you hear me. Lord, help us all.

One Letter, One Step, One Day At a Time

One Letter, One Step, One Day At a Time

I remember being in kindergarten and learning how to write. I sat at my square desk with my feet dangling below, and staring up at the chalkboard, my teacher wrote each letter in her flawless teacher handwriting. I marveled at how perfect each line and curve looked as they came together to form real letters and words and was always excited for my turn to take a shot at it. Sadly, whenever I tried to copy the letters into my black and white speckled composition book, it never looked quite the same. I gripped the big yellow number two pencil, hard pressed between my shaky fingers, and lowered my head to hover just inches above my best attempt. Legible at best, but unrefined and obviously in need of improvement.

Now, 25 years later, my handwriting still hasn’t improved much and still kind of resembles that of a little five-year-old girl’s…with chubby fingers. But I now know, more or less, how to write. Today, I can write long elaborate sentences, journals full of endless and somewhat incoherent thoughts, somewhat scholarly essays, tedious books reports, and quite possibly my own book. And how did I get here? One letter at a time.

These days, I am teaching my own children how to write. I watch them awkwardly hold their pencil, get flustered and frustrated when their marks go too far off the line, and every once in awhile let out deep sighs of pride when they think they’ve gotten it just right. All the while, I cheer them on and often say, “well done!” Then when they catch me writing pages upon page of words they can’t read, much less write, they are a little intimidated. They have that question of, “could I do this?” And while I know that they can, they are not so sure, so I smile and encourage them gently. “One day you will be able to write like this, probably even better.”

Marathoners don’t become runners over night. They train one mile, one block, one step at a time. My dad first taught me that when he challenged me to my first 5K run. I didn’t think I could do it, but as I wrenched with pain somewhere early on, my dad kept screaming, “one more step! ..one more step!” This eventually turned into a thousand more steps or however many more until we ran the whole thing and finally reached the end. In that moment, I realized he was right. It really was one more step. Then another step. And another step. Then we were done.

That day, he told me he knew I could run a marathon one day. Although I smiled up at him, I didn’t believe him really. How could anyone run 26 miles? But years later, I did it, and the entire time, I kept telling myself, “one more step.” And then I was done.

For some people, if not most, every day is an uphill battle. Sickness after sickness, sin, brokenness, lack of purpose, lack of joy, or just simply being bone tired. Every once in awhile there is some reprieve, but hardly enough to fill the void and pain that seems to rule most of life. Some lives are tragically ended too early for this very reason. People are tired of pain, tired of trying. In my own personal seasons of difficulty, I sometimes can’t help dip into dreary thoughts as well. I imagine the rest of my days before me and just wonder what other hardships might come my way. I, too, feel exhausted. Other times, I just don’t feel like I’m doing life well and can’t seem to get it right. I can’t make perfect o’s and my life feels more like that five-year-old, unrefined, rather sloppy kind of quality, no matter how hard I try.

But thanks be to God, life too is just a series of one-more-step’s. We can take one day at a time, one step after another on solid group as the Lord parts the sea for us to walk through His miracles, His providence, His faithfulness in life. It may never appear to be as pretty or polished as we would like it and more difficult than we think we can handle at times, but ONE STEP…. we can do.

One more step. One more step. One. More. Step. And then we will be done. And words cannot express how I wish for that moment for the Lord to receive me into His arms and to say, “well done, Irene.” To that end, I press on.

 

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Yes, Two Rings, Not One

Yes, Two Rings, Not One

It finally occurred to my daughter this week that I was wearing not one, but TWO rings on my ring finger. She had woken up earlier than usual that morning and wouldn’t allow me to coax her back to sleep. But she, of course, knew how to coax me and asked if we could worship. Can you say no to that? Not really … and I think she knows that.

So I dragged myself into our closet where she had already darted into with my oversized study Bible which looked just about as big as she was. Then as she plopped onto my lap with unexplainable energy for five in the morning, I began to pray and fight the spells of sleep coming over me.

My heavy eyes still shut, I could feel her playing with my fingers and rubbing my diamond ring. She does this often and the only reason she no longer asks if she can wear it is because she has given up. After being denied so many times, she finally understands that it is from daddy and it is special to mommy. But this day, as she looked down once again at all the sparkles and fine details of the ring she longs for, she suddenly gasped. After taking a closer look, she screamed, “umma you have TWO!”

Then, right on cue, came every three year old’s favorite question.

“Why? Why, umma? ..Why do you have two?”

Although usually pretty straight forward, sometimes her “why” question requires, begs, deserves, or simply invites deeper thought. This was one of them. Although she probably only asked because she hoped it might be an “extra” one to share, I ignored her burning desire for it and sat and thought and decided to really ponder the reason for these two rings. The next few moments of dawn were then transformed into full blown story time, still right there in my closet. We forgot we were surrounded by hangers and hangers of clothes and got lost together in the story instead.

I told her that the first ring was bought by daddy when he chose to marry me and be with me forever. He wanted to make it special, so he took me to my favorite place with lots and lots of horses. After taking a moment to talk about all the pretty horses, I continued on. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes because I loved him and chose him too. Now I wear the ring everyday because everyday my answer is still yes to be with him forever. Then I told her that I got the second ring on our wedding day. Standing with family and friends and God, I said yes to daddy again, and this time, it was my promise to God that I would be with daddy forever.

Sometimes I think about that moment of exchanging rings and vows–lofty promises really. I used to cower a little thinking about them because I knew I had broken them many times in the moments I failed to honor, cherish, and love my husband well. Even while standing at the altar that day, repeating those words eight years ago, I should’ve known then that I wouldn’t be able to keep all those promises. But you never make a promise thinking you’ll break them.

Such are the promises I’ve made to God. Especially when I first said yes to Him, I’m sure I spewed out many a grand promises to Him along with those buckets of tears. And still today, there are many things I want to do for God well and many I hope and say I’ll do. Other things I’m too afraid to even utter, God forbid I cannot carry them out. But I don’t think the point is so much in the promises, much less the success, but in the heart to do them and in the grace we find along the way, even as we fail. And maybe wholehearted broken promises are just part of the plan because I have just seen too much good come from my weak yes’s and failed attempts at life, so many times that it makes me wonder if this is just the way it is supposed to be.

To fail is humbling for sure, but maybe not so bad when grace is involved because it has truly been in my weaknesses where I have been seeing God’s perfect strength to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, etc. These days, I am learning what it is to be less. And more than my promises to Him, I am desperate to understand His promises for me. Still, I won’t be afraid to say “yes.” Everyday, my answer will be yes. Why? Well, because I love Him. And I choose Him and want to be with Him. Forever. Like He first chose to be with me.

Home for the New Year

Home for the New Year

I have a confession to make. In recent years, I have discovered that I really love good gifts.

For a while, however, I was in denial and convinced myself and others that gifts did not matter to me at all. I thought they were a waste of money, superficial, and a poor substitute for showing “real love.”

My husband didn’t believe me for a long time. Even though I told him over and over again not to buy things for me, he always had a gift ready for every occasion and some for no occasion at all. Then about four years into our marriage, he considered that I might have actually meant what I had been saying all those years, so he decided to stop buying gifts for me altogether.

That year, there was no gift for valentine’s day, nothing for my birthday, nothing for our anniversary, and then nothing when Christmas rolled around. Absolutely nothing.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly when I realized that I really love gifts, because to both his and my surprise, I was really upset.

“But… I thought you didn’t like gifts, babe…”

“I know….that’s what I thought too…. I don’t know why I’m so sad.. maybe I do…”

Since then, I have become keenly aware of how much it means to me when I get a good gift because receiving a good gift means that I was on someone’s mind. It means that they found me valuable and worthy enough to spend their time on me, their energy, and their resources. It was costly in many different ways, but they did it with joy as an expression of their love. And that is why I love a good gift–it evidences LOVE.

And I believe that is why God loves to give gifts to us, too. Because He loves us and wants us to know it. He delights in giving good gifts—perfect gifts in fact—and He knows exactly what we want and need. God showers us with reminders of His love through sometimes big and sometimes small, but always precious and perfect, gifts.

Last week for example, He gave us a beautiful, new house. I’m sitting in it now looking  at the new appliances and the freshly painted walls, and I am still in disbelief. I am awestruck, really, not because the house is so magnificent, but because it is…perfect. It is perfectly charming, it is perfectly warm, and it has been perfectly well-kept and made ready for our family. And not only that, but it came at the perfect timing.

You see, back in 2014, it was New Year’s eve, and we were praying for a word for the new year. Foster care and adoption were newly on our hearts, but in the process, the social worker had told us that we needed more room to meet their housing requirements. So we looked into the possibility of moving. Unfortunately, we were financially tied down to that house and we couldn’t even afford to sell our home, let alone buy a new one.

Yet when we went to pray that night, kneeling in the middle of our living room floor and wondering how this would all work out, the clock struck midnight and we were ushered into the new year with encouragement. Danny and I both clearly felt the Lord tell us that He would deliver us into the promise land within the third year. So, we had peace to wait, and when I say God has perfect time, I mean He has PERFECT timing.

We moved in last week on December 30, and as we hauled in box after box, we marveled at the fact that it was exactly the third year since that word we received from the Lord. So we got to spend our first full day in our new house on New Year’s eve, and once again, we knelt down on our new living room floor, this time, to praise God for bringing us here in His perfect timing.

Those years of waiting in between, however, were necessary for so many different reasons as His will perfectly unfolded. There were days it was difficult to wait. Days we felt like we had setbacks and delays. Days we wondered if He would really come through for us or if we should just go back to the way things were. But then again, these were days we needed to grow and prepare. Days we were challenged to increase our faith in Him and love for others. Days full of miracles and prayers answered in His perfect way. Three years’ worth of days needed to make His perfect will come to pass.

God has made and continues to make ALL THINGS in our lives work for our good, and LIFE itself and everything in it truly become good and perfect gifts. They are part of His perfect will.

And now, we continue to wait on the Lord. We wait for the children who will come into our home. We wait for the lives that will be changed, including our own. But most of all, we wait for Christ, our most perfect gift, to come back and bring us to our heavenly home. For we know full well that this home now is just one stepping stone on the way to heaven where Jesus is also waiting to welcome us Home.

Thank you Jesus for this house. I really love Good gifts.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

I Want a Divorce

There was a time this thought visited my mind. I never said it, but I silently wished it. At the time, it seemed like the only answer and the only solution to the deep black hole of a mess we found ourselves in. But it was also a terrifying thought, one that I never imagined I would ever have. I don’t think anyone gets married imagining they might have a divorce one day. No, if you’re walking down that long, beautiful aisle, this marks the happiest moment of your life because you are thrilled you finally found the one, and divorce is really the last thing on your mind.

Yet just as soon as I got married, I immediately came face to face with the grim reality that no marriages are perfect, not in the least. I was shocked to see that divorce was everywhere and even more shocked to find I was one day considering it myself. It had been a tough year full of hurt and misunderstandings and after going around in circles over and over again over the same disappointing, enraging, and heartbreaking events and realizations, I wondered if we had made some horrible mistake.

Then everything inside me wanted out. I wanted to get out of the house, walk out of the marriage, and if it were at all possible, walk straight back to the days of being single and free. I wasn’t just trying to take the easy way out, but I honestly thought it might be better for the both of us.

The way that this thought came so naturally, however, was scary. It was as if it had been waiting at our door just looking for the opportunity to rear its ugly head into our home and present itself as the better alternative. And for a moment, I thought about it.

Thankfully, after a great deal of grace, prayer, counsel, and hard work, I stopped entertaining the idea of divorce in my home. I walked it to the door and after saying goodbye, my husband and I were able to find our footing and trek our way out of the thick of things. We’ve come a long way since then and continue to learn a great deal about marriage even now, but what I’ve learned the most is that marriage is not easy. It is without a doubt hard..really hard, excruciatingly hard, and yet, it is the best kind of hard.

Those moments and days and seasons and years of difficulty can be…difficult.  Dying to your own desires for the good of the other is sometimes like swallowing lemons and other times like a few good jabs to the stomach. Learning to love a person who is always changing can seem like an impossible feat. Not letting your mind and your flesh wander away from your first love involves perhaps more training, stamina, and mental discipline than is necessary for any extreme sport. Constantly working for closeness can be exhausting, but the moment you stop trying is the moment you start drifting. And learning to overlook offenses and to forgive quickly even when great hurt is involved can feel like a job only cut out for Jesus Himself, but we are called to do so nonetheless. Realizing the weaknesses, the faults, the utter sinfulness of your spouse and then of yourself. Illnesses, financial difficulty, infidelity, etc, all of which can rob every last ounce of joy and love that you never thought could leave your marriage. All this and a million things more are hard.

This may sound rather depressing, but there is of course the bright side and it is this. In the little experience I have had with marriage, I found that perhaps BECAUSE marriage is so hard, I have come to love Christ all the more.

I love Christ and how in the midst of imperfect love from imperfect beings, God can still show His perfect love. I love how the greatest hurts can be washed and transformed to blend into the most beautiful picture of reconciliation. I love how God can pick up all the pieces of shattered hearts and make it whole again. I love the long nights where tears mixed with pain and utter frustration turn into tears of laughter just as the dawn comes and we both know it was only God who could work such a miracle. And most of all, I love all the work, all the muck, and all the mess because when I turn around, I see that we are no longer who we once were, but we are one step closer to Christ and one step closer to reflecting His image.

I know not all marriages have worked out and not all always will, but one thing I know is that there is always hope. I have hope for my own and hope for everyone else who has or ever will find themselves in the beginning, middle, or possibly nearing what looks like the end of this really crazy thing called marriage. And I hope that when all is said and done, we will all have greater love, even greater than what we first imagined on our wedding day, and then it would all be worth it .