(Edited to add...okay, someone must have been praying for me this morning...this post I just wrote absolutely FLOWED from my heart to the keyboard and I am overcome with emotion. I can't stop crying because I am so very grateful for God's faithfulness. I'm ashamed to admit how many times I wanted to leave my marriage--and I know Stephen felt the same way--but I can't imagine my life without him as my husband now. I don't want my future without him! There are some people in my life who understand what a miracle this is--Melanie and Emily, remember when I called you two nearly every single day, crying about my "doomed life"!?)
...been thinking a lot lately about my husband, Stephen, and how much I love and appreciate him. I am not kidding when I tell you my heart actually feels all mushy just thinking about how much he means to me and how grateful I am for how instrumental he has been in my growing so much in my faith. To be very honest, it is a welcome change from the way I used to feel! I came across a very old photo of the two of us together--and probably my favorite one of us--and I just uploaded a couple of others--one from a few years ago and a much more recent one taken last month. I got to looking at the photos and thinking about how much we have changed through the years--aside from the obvious weight gain and gray hair!
This first photo makes me think of:
- being swept off my feet
- falling in love
- being extremely naive
- self-centered (Me first, Stephen second, then someplace on the list were my kids and God, but not quite sure where)
- dreaming of a happily ever after
- unrealistic expectations of one another
Photos can sure be deceiving, huh? Look at my smile! Yet this one reminds me:
- not at all what I bargained for
- more bad days than good
- 90% of my thoughts about Stephen are negative
- lots of tears and hostility
- unhappy home
- in the deepest pit of despair I've ever known
- somehow managing to cling to God despite all the above!
Ahhh...the present :) This photo brings me to tears when I think of how far we've come. Where to begin?
- much wiser--figuring out what love really does mean!
- way more answered prayers than I can count
- seeing Stephen through different eyes and softer heart--much more loving and much less critical
- knowing God never intended for me to walk down the very hard path I chose, but because He IS God, He has worked my circumstances for His good. Unbelievable to me.
- Seeing how great a man Stephen is when he receives the support and encouragement and love and prayers from his wife--just as God intends!
- and that is only possible when I surrender myself fully to God and allow Him to work in ME...I have to keep my eyes on Him and not my circumstances, not on others' marriages, and definitely not on what Stephen is or is not doing "right"
- discovered the unbelievable POWER of prayer--especially in my marriage and my home--anything is possible!
- nowhere NEAR as many bad days as good ones! And I don't even think we have bad DAYS--I think we have a few bad hours here and there!
- I learned when I am obedient to God's Word, He takes care of me and all I hold dear in immeasurably more ways than I can ask or imagine.
- My prayers are so very different from 3-5 years ago. They used to be "Stephen is so mean! Change him!!!" and now they are more like "Thank you for the trials You have allowed me to experience...for all the lessons I've learned THROUGH THEM! I am in AWE of your power, demonstrated DAILY in our lives!! Please keep working in my marriage so that one day, when and if it is Your will, our story may encourage other husbands and wives to STAY TOGETHER for Your glory and watch what You are capable of!!!
No doubt about it...I would absolutely walk through every single fire we've experienced in our marriage all over again if it meant being this in love with God...this in awe of His power. Only God can remove the paralyzing shame of adultery and eventually use that very relationship for His glory! Only God. And frankly, only through many, many tears and trials and a truly repentant heart committed to Him.
About a year ago, my sister emailed me Psalm 20--A Prayer for Victory. I printed it out and have kept it with me ever since. I'm thinking of it now as I celebrate God's work in my marriage.
"May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!"