Our reception was held in the small-town gymnasium, a block from where I grew up. Scott and I fancied ourselves as fairy-tale characters. Miles of crepe paper had been draped around that stinky gym, in an act of decorating prowess that would have sent all of Pinterest into a tailspin of horror. Our dinner reception was served by a bunch of middle-aged fellows from the farmer’s cooperative, wearing greasy aprons. They grilled turkey filets. Potato salad was heaped in cumulonimbus clumps upon flimsy plastic plates.
To us, it felt first-class fancy — this unglamorous wedding reception, lit up with thousands of twinkling lights strung from fake ficus trees and basketball hoops. It was a fairy tale beginning to what—we hoped—would be our happily ever after.
We danced until midnight under the gym rafters. When the band slowed things down a bit, they played “Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life.” I nestled my head under his chin, feeling his warm breath coming out in long exhales into my hair.
Then, real life happened. The needle scratched across the record. It didn’t happen in a day, but in a series of months that turned to years. Our marriage slipped into a bland malaise. Suddenly, we woke up and realized that someone short-circuited the electricity in the marriage, and we both blamed the other person for faulty wiring.
A child came. And then another. Some pudgy-fisted toddler and her silk-edged Taggie blanket slipped between the two of us at midnight, again and again.
This is the moment when some of us look at our marriages and ask ourselves: How did we go from happy to humdrum? Can we reclaim the joy of our wedding day? Even more, can we multiply it?
Why yes… yes we can. And we don’t have to wait until the kids are gone to do it. The time is NOW. Maybe it’s like Wendell Berry said: “The most misleading thing a love story can do is end ‘happily’ with a marriage, not because there is no such thing as a happy marriage, but because marriage cannot be happy except by being made happy.”
Simply put: A happy marriage takes work. Hard work. And it’s worth it.
The cynics will tell you that holy matrimony is outdated, outmoded and utterly unfixable. But that’s not true. Marriage is something worth fighting for, not only because of true love, but because marriage is a sacred bond created by God.
The other day, a book appeared on my doorstep. Because I’m an author, other authors send me their books from time to time. I don’t tell you about every book that comes my way, but there are a few that have a message that I simply can’t keep to myself. For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House is one of those books.
“Marriage is both a blessing we received and a battle we fight for in love, commitment, sacrifice, and grace. The challenge in marriage is not how it starts, but how it continues, grow, matures, and flourishes over time,” write Patrick and Ruth Schwenk.
Last month, Scott and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We celebrated a richer, fuller version of “happily ever after,” than we could have known. It hasn’t been easy. Like Patrick and Ruth write, it has been a “battle we fight for in love.”
Our marriage has grown over the bumps and twists of years, between the unexpected moves, job changes, surprise babies, spontaneous dates—and yes, even the slammed doors. It grew in the middle of our bored nights, and our begging prayers, and in the moments when God miraculously redeemed our irrational decisions.
It grew in the breaking and the mending. It grew over crazy trips to the emergency room, in that gentle brushing-up against each other when you’re hip-to-hip at the sink, and during those late-night Netflix marathons, when you reach in the dark, to find the hand of your favorite person.
It happened in the falling apart, and in the duct-taping it all back together again.
Marriage is waking up every day to say “I do” again. It’s inviting someone into your personal space, and behind your unlocked bathroom door, and into your hospital room, where your back end is open to the breeze. It’s letting someone look into every closet where every last skeleton still rattles, and then letting them look into your eyes, past the crow’s feet, to see someone more beautiful than the day they said “yes.”
Marriage is for better and for worse, and knowing that sometimes? The better comes after the worst.*
(Footnote: A statement similar to this is often attributed to Doug Larson.)
BOOK GIVEAWAY DETAILS
Today we are celebrating the release of For Better or For Kids by giving away 3 copies of the book!
To enter the giveaway, complete these steps:
1. Share this post on Facebook.
2. Let us know in the comments that you shared! Easy-peasy!
On Friday, I will draw 3 winners randomly from the comments below.
ABOUT THE BOOK
For Better or For Kids is the #1 new release in Christian Marriage books on Amazon!
This book will enable couples to:
- Build a God-centered marriage instead of a Child-centered or Me-centered marriage
- Avoid the dangers of spouse-neglect and self-neglect
- Effectively communicate in the chaos
- Explore ways to parent together as one team
- Find balance in the busyness
For Better or For Kids (by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk) is about remembering that even when you feel worn out, over-extended, and neglected, you promised to be a team. Marriage with kids may not always be what we expected, but it is good. We need to make a vow to love our spouse with kids in the house.
Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Anna Smit. She recently interviewed me about pursuing happiness and community in the midst of pain, and I’ve love to invite you to join our conversation. Find Anna here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer