Paper trail of love

People still marvel when my husband tells them he’s been married 17 years this month.  To the same woman.  They laugh and figure he must have married when he was about 12.  It’s true.  That’s how young he looks.  No one really questions when I say the same thing.  Perhaps that has a little to do with the half dozen babies I’ve carried and delivered, possibly.  They laugh again when he takes responsibility for those 6 children.  Yes.  “All with the same woman” he answers with a smile.

Deliriously stricken with what we thought love was when we were 15 years old in our junior year of high school, we talked on telephones with cords late into the night and spent our weekends going line dancing with friends.  There were school dances and trips to the mountains for day skiing.  There was girl drama and a hundred other things that felt like the biggest deal ever.  My grandma smiled when I told her we’d stay together after we graduated high school.  Politely not saying what everyone was thinking, “Sure, easy to say, highly unlikely”.

Our choosing two different universities gave way to writing the letters.  Not emails or texts.  No electronic anything.  Bonafide love letters.  Our very own paper trail of love those letters are. The anticipation and patience involved when word from the one your heart longs for is hours away and requires getting through border patrol to put eyes on. Not for the faint of heart.  They sit by my bed in a stack wrapped in a ribbon.  Their very presence dates me.  Ages me.  Puts me in the “pushing 40 years old” crowd.

Months turned into years and our long distance perseverance continued.  We became adept at waiting.  Waiting for the border open.  Waiting for the letter to come through the university post.  Waiting at the dorm phone for a scheduled phone call.  Waiting for direction for post-college plans.  Waiting for summer when we would be home with parents and only 20 minutes drive from each other.  Waiting for an engagement ring.  Which turned into waiting for a wedding.  Which meant more waiting.  Waiting to go to bed together and wake up in the same place.   I won’t ever forget waking up the day after our wedding and holding my ring-clad hand up in disbelief that yes, I was finally paired for life with this one I loved.  It was surreal.

Our paper trail turned into post-its at this point.  Notes written and stuck on the bathroom mirror.  I still have the sticky stack.  Short notes of love that cemented our gratitude that we were done waiting for each other.  We settled into married housing our last year of college and walked graduation together the following year.  Youth pastor and social worker finding our (very young) way.

This morning I wrote a bridal shower gift card to a young thing preparing for her own summer wedding.  I simply said “sending love and blessings your way as you prepare for your marriage (the wedding is the easy part, don’t stress about that!)”.  At barely 21, I certainly thought otherwise!  I was sure the wedding was the hard part.  Our big wedding with two receptions, which I planned without a wedding coordinator while keeping a $5,000 wedding budget, was attended by 428 people.  It felt huge.  Larger than life.  I hadn’t given a great deal of thought about the life that would come after.  Sure we did premarital counseling and personality tests and all.  Good stuff.  But nothing prepares any love struck sweetheart for the reality of marriage.

But love letters wane.  Post it notes get unsticky.  He doesn’t bake caramel brownies from scratch filled with love notes on foil anymore.  She doesn’t spend an hour on hair and makeup every single day.  He doesn’t know how to respond to her insecure 21 year old self.  And she doesn’t know how to cook after all.  Real life happens.  And real life is darn hard sometimes….most of the time.  Wedded bliss becomes a ruse and the sparkly ring gets dirty and scratched up.  So do the wedded ones.  No matter how good in heart or how sweet their intentions.

This is where the fire burns hot and hard choices are made.  This is where listening to the prevailing wisdom of the culture we live in (even church culture) says loudly “Marriage is meant to make you happy – if you aren’t happy, you can walk away!”.   Choosing to keep love in the midst of real, broken life comes hard fought, comes at a price.  Two sweet lovebirds change and grow up.  Inevitably, they don’t grow on the same timeline.  This proves incredibly hard to navigate.

Choosing love in the midst of the mess, in the midst of the growing, in the midst of imperfection and failure….this is how we are forging our way forward. By saying yes to each other.  Yes to love.  Yes to the gut-wrenching conversations.  Yes to humility.  Yes to apologizing and subsequent forgiveness.  Yes to awkward, soul-exposed moments .  Yes to being a witness to the whole of life by someone’s side.  Yes to the covenant promise of marriage.  Not just when it makes sense or comes easy or “feels right”.  Even, especially, when it doesn’t.

17 years and counting.  Thankful every day (even the ones that lay me flat) for my yes all those years ago and every day since.  Perhaps even, the best is yet to come…

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Finding rest in the midst of chaos

I sit across the table from her in the early morning as we drink coffee in the corner of this tiny breakfast spot that is a 45 minute drive for both of us.  It’s the perfect middle meeting place.  She drives south as I’m driving north.  It isn’t anything pretty to look at, this little diner that seems to be full of locals who all know each other and talk farming and friendship and bureaucracy.  But to me, on this rainy Saturday, it is sacred ground.

We’ve somehow managed to carve out time with none of our combined thirteen children and have two full hours of face time.  Not the electronic app type, but the real kind where I can reach across my coffee cup and touch her arm.  There is little time for chit chat or anything light or mindless, not today.  We know our time is short and we both know too there is heartache of many varieties on each side of the table.  There are twenty five years of friendship in between as well.

Our banter is quiet and though we find things to laugh about, as we exchange words and share about life, something happens that is always a bit beyond the reach of my understanding.  Somehow, in the sharing, in the hearing, in the remembering together, the burdens that are pressing so heavy on my heart are lifted just a bit.  We don’t answer any big questions or solve any mysteries.  The process reminds me of these words that are life to me these days…

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

These two hours are rest for my soul.  In the midst of the talking, the listening and the tears there is some sort of mysterious exchange.  It feels like she is a stand-in for Jesus.  There isn’t any better way to describe it.  In daring to speak out loud my deep sadness and struggle, and listening to hers….in shouldering it alongside each other in the corner booth, it doesn’t weigh the same.  It is lighter.

At certain times, I think God knows we need a physical person to represent him in our life.  We need someone living, breathing, sitting right there whose own eyes well up when they see us cry.  Someone who holds no judgement over our failure or mistakes.  Someone who doesn’t offer an answer but extends compassion and makes sure we know they aren’t going anywhere.  We can read in a book or on a blog or know God’s word by memory, all sorts of truth.  But there are moments in life when things press in a little (or a lot) too hard and we need a person who looks like Jesus to hold us up, to bear with us under the weight of life, until we can stand again.

Thankful today that we don’t have to walk it alone.  That one way or another, God stands near.  Ever present in our pain.

It takes two

There are black mascara lines streaking downward from both my eyes.  My cheeks are  flushed red and my heart still beats a little too fast.  It was 4H tonight and I was hell bent on making it work to go even though Chris had plans and that meant I would have to go alone with six children.  I had my reasons, it only meets once a month, our oldest two have presentations to give tonight and so on.  By dinner time it had already been a tough day on multiple fronts and all signs pointed to “don’t do it”.  But I didn’t want to disappoint our responsible, studious oldest daughter who had her puppet show all prepared and handouts freshly printed.

Being a mother means sometimes having the responsibility of doing things alone with your kids.  It’s just part of the gig.  Depending on work schedules and kids activities there might be lots of things you manage to do by yourself.  We rock Costco every two weeks or so, the kids and I, because we need to.  Same with the dentist, the orthodontist, choir and co-op classes.  We either figure it out or we stay home.  And then there are a few things that require two parents for success.  Those include church, the aquarium, any place that involves jumping or bouncing and 4H meetings.

We were 4H bound.  We managed to leave early so we could score a good parking place.  There may have been crying about jackets but all in all, we departed.  The meeting went off without a hitch and the presentation was stellar.  Their audience laughed and smiled while they acted out the life story of a sea turtle.  I watched while I nursed the baby.  Meanwhile, Phineas was dismantling a part of the piano, shutting himself in the dog crate and barking, abusing his ice machine privileges or trying to find a way into the sealed cookies that were for snack time later. While I tried to keep tabs on him, Liberty was busy spitting up all over their carpet.  Still, in general we were surviving.  Then Finn took the closet off its hinges with his brute two year old force.  All the kids were in an uproar and found it exceedingly hilarious, which led him to believe likewise.  He brought me by the hand to show me what he’d done and then promptly said he was sorry.  I may have laughed and then said “we need to leave before we break anything else!”.

My heart had wanted, earlier, to either stay home or put enough pressure on the hubby that he would give up his plans and come with us.  But I didn’t like that feeling.  I wanted the best of both worlds, he could go out with friends and I could be supermom and tackle 4H with grace and charisma.  Perhaps that’s called pride?  Or ignorance?  I’m not sure.  I am sure of one thing, I should have listened to myself.

After I sent three kids out the door with express instructions to go to the van, which was just outside said door, I ran back inside for Liberty who was in the arms of a friend.  When I opened the front door, my boys were running up the driveway hill toward their younger sister who was standing in the dark nearly on the white line of the country road (read: no sidewalk, barrier or bright streetlights).  They were laughing and bursting with energy.  And I startled the poor baby in my arms as I screamed for them to come back.  They hightailed it to the van, knowing instantly from my tone that they’d made a very bad judgement call.

I cried all the way home.  For so many reasons.  Mainly two.  I was terrified.  Seeing my little girl standing at the road far beyond my arms reach made my heart stop.  That kind of fear has to be the worst kind.  And second, I knew it was too much but I went anyway.  There are things I can do and things I can’t.  But I’m less than okay with the “can’t” list.  I don’t like it.  I want to be able to manage without my husband for most any task. I’ve been pining away for spring and summer projects, dreaming big dreams that are giving glimmers life and light to a heart that is heavy with challenges we’re facing with one of our kids.  Trying to find ways to do them on my own and do it most efficiently, so that I don’t add to his already significant workload, thinking I’m helping and doing right by doing it myself.

The reality is we are meant to figure out how to do it together.  All of it.  When the need for independence and being able to ‘get the job done’ trumps the cohesive nature of marriage, no one wins.  As I tried to drive home tonight, unable at times to see the headlights clearly through my tears, I slowed down and called Chris.  I had to.  I couldn’t keep driving without hearing his voice.  I tried to tell him what had happened, that everyone was okay but that it was so scary, that I should have stayed home, that it was too much for me to go alone.  And then I said what my heart really felt, really feels if I’m honest…

I need you.  I need you to talk to me.  I need you to tell me it’s going to be okay.  That we are okay.

My independent-prone self wants to not say that, wants to feel like I can make it work, sort things through, find an answer to any dilemma, tough it out, hang in there, muster up the grit to keep on….and I usually do.  There are great strengths to being that sort of person.  But just ask my husband, there is great weakness too.  The partnership that marriage was designed to be doesn’t work as smoothly as it could when one party or both act like they don’t need the other.  It isn’t the “helpful gesture” that I think I thought it was.  I think dreaming my garden dreams or debating the necessary size of meat bird pens or designing kidding pens for our pregnant goats might be better thought through and hold more value for both of us if I wasn’t doing it by myself.

Taking some deep breaths here and vowing to make sure my (amazing) husband knows how much he’s needed and allowing myself the space to say “I can’t” when I need to.  Want to see my favorite picture of him from last year?  It was the Easter parade and he toted 5 goats in the back of our van in a tarp (and five of our children as well…not in tarps), wrangled goats and children all the way down Main Street for hundreds of onlookers and always with a smile.

c and goats

One more reason…

…why I love my husband:

Because he spontaneously wrote this on my kitchen chalkboard when I came home with 80 pounds of peaches and 40 pounds of tomatoes to preserve.  The kitchen is a perpetual mess of fruit flies (which he hates) and sticky counters for the good part of September.  Despite all that, he writes in chalk with exclamation marks what’s on the docket ’round here.  This makes me happy.

Maybe we’re getting old…

It is a monumental task to get five kids cared for and arrange for a date night.  I know all the books say that you really need to do it every other week but for us, every other month is doing pretty good!  A few months ago we bought tickets to see our favorite musician.  It wasn’t till a month later that we figured out he was opening for another artist and wasn’t the main attraction.

That was okay with us.  His music came into our life at a critical juncture and will probably forever and always be tied in our minds with the rebuilding of our marriage and renewing of our love for one another.  So, we figured any other music that night would just be a bonus.

Last night was date night, finally.  I spent the drive there worrying about details.  Had I gone over everything, prepared it all well, forgotten any instructions?  We sat down in the theater downtown in the big city and I worried about it being earthquake safe.  I calculated how Phineas would survive without me to feed him.  I smiled nervous smiles and tried to be ‘all there’.

Then there was music.  There were words that expressed my very own heart.  My whole body could feel the sound, my whole heart could hear the words and all the worry vanished for those 45 minutes.  It was clear a large part of the crowd was there for the very young pop artist who was the ‘main event’.  We felt a bit old.  A bit over dressed.  And we were.

It’s fairly likely I was the only was with tears streaming down their face in the crowd of a couple thousand people as he sang these words:

Breathe in, breathe out,
Move on and break down,
If everyone goes away i will stay.

We push and pull,
& I fall down sometimes,
I’m not letting go,
You hold the other line.

Cause there is a light in your eyes, in your eyes.

Hold on hold tight,
From out of your sight,
If everything keeps moving on, moving on,
Hold on hold tight,
Make it through another night,
& everyday there comes a song with the dawn,
We push and pull and I fall down sometimes,
I’m not letting go,
You hold the other line.

 

Somehow (by Grace, really, only Grace) we’ve learned to breathe and how to hold on and how to get up.  How not to let go when one more night seems like a lot to ask.  How to love quiet and strong.  We’ve said it loud with our choices and actions, I’m not letting go.

I rested my head on his shoulder and took a deep breath.  So thankful for something to love and enjoy together.  So incredulous at the power of music and words and God to sew hearts back into one piece.

As Mat Kearney wrapped it up for the night and the next musician stepped up we were caught up in giggles watching him dance and prance and sing about butterflies and flowers and sunshine and snowflakes.  Really, snowflakes while dancing on tiptoes?  Kids around us squealed in absolute glee while we shook our heads.  After almost two songs and a whole lot of laughing, we whispered to eachother that we should go and use our time away wisely.  We found a place to sit and talk and laugh and relish the gift of time we’d been given.

And we’re learning…its the best gift.

Choosing honor

I couldn’t write about this last year around this time, it was a bit too fresh.  But as I anticipate Father’s Day again and think about ways to honor my husband for his commitment to our family I can’t help but remember.

Last year was the first year he didn’t have a dad to call or hang out with on Father’s Day.  Though no words had been spoken I knew that must hurt and that the pain ran deep.  So I intentionally, thoughtfully planned out ways we could show him how much he meant to us.  The kids and I spent a whole day working on an 8 foot drawing of an oak tree.  We cut out tiny paper acorns and wrote on each one different things we loved about him.  I printed out a poem about oak trees and how strong they are and why they can weather great storms.

You get the idea…we worked hard.  We invested a lot in making him feel blessed.  But that’s not my point.  The same day, in the afternoon, I checked our bank account and he had made a very significant purchase that day.  One that we had not entirely talked through or agreed about.  My cheeks burned red and I had a lot of things I wanted to say.  I was tempted to throw the giant tree in the trash because I was so mad.

This is the juncture that every person has found themselves in one time or another.  This is the point where a critical choice has to be made.  More often than not, its me on the other side and I’m the one in desperate need of grace.  But this time it was him.

Give grace or seek vindication?
Let love win or let anger spill?

I felt more than justified to burn with my words and trash my whole “you’re an awesome dad” night.  But God’s way won out, for once I simply bowed to what I knew was right and chose to give honor regardless of the day’s circumstances.  His choice bore no impact on if he was worthy of our special night.  I get to choose to respect who he is regardless of if I feel like he’s earned it that day or not (thank you Love and Respect book, for that wisdom!).

The way he flourishes and smiles when I opt for holding my tongue or choose to offer an affirming word never ceases to amaze me.  I really should have it down pat by now but somehow its still hard sometimes.  The patience and grace to keep learning are certainly still critical to marriage survival.  I’m fairly certain my long-time-married-incredible parents would even agree, it is a never ending process.

Like most things in life, I may not have a choice in just what happens but I get to choose how I respond.

I can choose forgiveness.
I can choose honor.
I can choose to hope.
I can choose love.

Back on the gratitude bandwagon…

#431 – silly sister moments

#432 – silly sibling moments (love the relationship these two have most days)

#433 – impromptu brother sister tea parties by candlelight (they rumaged all the snacks they could…even vitamins!)

#434 – sleep (the bits I’m getting are pretty darn sweet!)

#435 – making a CD mix for my love….my ploy to remind him of me while he spends oh-so-long days driving and working

#436 – date night – 2 1/2 hours of face to face time with no children = absolute sweetness

#437 – perfect, yummy baby skin

#438 – a hot meal, not prepared by me, and the joy of eating it all while its still hot (did I already mention date night?)

#439 – common ground, sharing dreams, having ideals

#440 – sisters (a good one of my middle sis, just so she doesn’t kill me for posting the goofy one above!)

#441 – new favorite song – Matthew West “Hold You Up” – what it is about a girls’ heart that wants to hear the words “You are worth fighting for”?

#442 – garden boxes and all the little tiny seedlings poking out of the ground despite the COLD spring!

#443 -pins and needles waiting to hear about the birth of my best friends’ SIXTH blessing!!!

#444 – how good it feels to let things go and really, truly let. them. GO.

#445 – celebrating twelve years married to the love of my life

Testify

Twelve years ago today we walked down the aisle to these words:

For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I’ll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough
With every breath I take I will give thanks to God above
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
(Avalon “Testify”)

We didn’t give it much thought, love was easy and simple.  We’d waited 4 years to marry, dated through our last two years of high school, been through lots of ups and downs and at the time our very union was testimony to God’s faithfulness.  It really was.

We were idealistic and hope-filled 21 year olds.  All of life spanned before us and it seemed so very grand.  We made plans, dreamed dreams and forged ahead together.  We paid $427 a month to rent a tiny campus apartment that overlooked a lake while we finished college.  I think I threatened once or twice to go back to my parents.  Oh how young I was.   I made coffee and he made disciples as he led the youth group at our church.  He thrived and I watched his passion explode.  We studied hard and graduated together.

While on a missions trip to El Salvador using pit toilets and doing manual labor every day, a pink line rocked our world and we grinned all week as we kept our little secret.  We bought a tiny pair of brown sandals there and flew home on our own cloud as we pondered the parenthood journey we were about to embark on.

Years passed, more babies entered our world and the thriving, passion-filled man faced a lot of challenges and work became something different.  I filled my heart and my life with a job that I loved.  Church life wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  People weren’t perfect, we weren’t perfect.

We walked out our days and our lives in the best ways we could.  But we hurt each other.  A lot.  At the bottom of a spiral that seemed to last forever, we realized a choice had to be made and we chose each other.

Hard work.  So much of it.  So many words and tears.  We found little things to love together.  Like music.  And somehow these words came to be true…

And I don’t care if everyone knows what we’re going through
‘Cause all the roads lead back to you

On and on and on we pray, we can break into a brighter day
Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy
On and on and on we go, I don’t understand this windy road
Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy

And we’ll keep on, keep on climbing on down this narrow line
So we can see the other side, the other side
(Mat Kearney “On and On”)

Weeks, months passed and the ‘other side’ ever so slowly found its way onto the horizon.  We vowed without words really, that what we had was worth it.  And we walked the hard road of healing.

Now we testify to something different.  Not just to an ideal we call love.  Not just to a dreamy something that is nice to sing about.  To the ultimate, radical power of God to change lives and the most stubborn, broken hearts into something beautiful.  To the unchanging, unceasing grace that He gives when we can’t even muster up the ability to ask for it.  To the reality of restoration and the gift of forgiveness.

We testify to love.  But not to our own imperfect, never-enough kind of love.  To the Love Giver Himself and the way He makes all things new.

Just what I need

I’d like to think that I know what I need.  I have always had grand ideas about what is best for me, what I want, what I should do or where I want to go in life.  Ten years ago these were some of my ideals:

  • 2 kids, maybe 3
  • a meaningful part time job
  • a lovely, well appointed home
  • the discipline to maintain my high school figure
  • a perfectly scheduled daily quiet time
  • a perfectly romantic, blissful marriage

Strangely, I have none of these things.  The things, the life, the ideals I thought I had figured out were more fluid than I realized then.  I have been blessed with 5 children instead of 2.  I gave up my very meaningful part time job because I could not keep it and maintain my other priorities.  I do not, probably never will, have a knack for home decorating.  I don’t even have a knack for home cleaning!  I am a long ways from my high school figure, I’m pretty sure it’s gone for good.  My times with the Lord come at 3 AM as I rock a crying baby or at 3 PM as I lock the door on the bathroom for 5 minutes to have a moment to myself.  Romantic wouldn’t be my first word choice for my marriage, I’ve come to appreciate other things about it that in fact mean a great deal more.  It is a beautiful picture of faithfulness, commitment, hard work and redemption.

When we had Audrey three years ago, we were just coming out of a very broken season.  A lot of hard things had piled up in life.  Her perfectly happy demeanor and girly sweetness was truly just what we needed at that time.  She brought pure delight on a daily basis when we were still wondering just how we’d make it through.  But we did make it.  And then we encountered last years’ heart wrenching losses that forced us to hold on tighter to each other and to the God we loved.

Phineas is the perfect addition to our family for such a time as this.  He will shape our life, our parenting and our family just the way each of our sweet children have.  We learn this lesson a little more with each child we welcome.  They have so much to show us about life and love.  It overwhelms me when I think about it.  God doesn’t mess up on timing or anything else, He knew we needed a little bit of a challenge.  More than that, He knew we needed a reminder that we can’t ‘do it all’.  He wants us to need Him…and we sure do.

I’m learning to trust that His plans, His ideals are a whole lot more amazing than my own.  Even if they can’t boil down to a nice, predictable, convenient list.  While I feel a pretty significant challenge with life as it is at the moment, as my dear friend Kim wrote a few days ago:

It is always dangerous to assume that your life today is the new normal.

As I struggled to click the “purchase” button yesterday while buying my hubby’s plane ticket to Philadelphia in November and got all teary just thinking about him being gone for 4 days (even though its not for SEVEN months AND the trip was MY idea!) – those words of Kim’s rang in my head.  How I feel today isn’t how I’ll feel in November, my normal then will be totally different than it is now.

God sees the bigger picture of my day, my week, my year.  His plans are good and they are for my good – no matter what.  My part is just to hold to that truth in the midst of these days.

A love like this

In cleaning a few weeks ago, I found this letter I penned just about 2 years ago.  Tumultuous would have been a mild way to describe the status of our life. We were facing huge change and loss and everything felt out of control.

I was overcome with emotion as I read.  And remembered…

My beloved.

It’s been a long year.

A longer 8 weeks.

An even longer 10 days.

I have a lot of observations and thoughts about our life together, why it has been so hard, why there has been so much pain, why we’ve had more than our share of struggle.  Those aside, I just want you to know that though the road has been bumpy and left us bruised and broken more times than we can count-I would walk through it all again to have the privilege of making this beautiful family with you and following Jesus by your side.

I believe in you.

Let me say it again, I believe in you.  I have watched you find Jesus, walk with Him, walk away from Him, make good choices, makes poor ones, thrive in your talents and gifting and falter in your weakness.  I have watched your heart break.  I have watched you rebuild and roll up your sleeves as you have relentlessly pursued healing and restoration in your life and in our marriage.

Whatever this next season looks like, wherever it is going to take place, however great the amount of change and struggle-I want you to know, I need you to know that I am in it WITH you.  I stopped wondering when we would ‘arrive’ in a place of near-perfectness and ease.  I am done waiting for a magical place of ‘easy life’.  We’ll never be there.  Ever.

But we are here.  Today.  Together.

And my heart bursts with price for who you are allowing God to mold you into, what you’ve let him do with your heart.  I am secretly excited for the way we will have to trust Him to care for us in the coming months.

Because He will.  And we will get to watch.

I love you more than I ever thought possible.  I choose you, even if I could see every hard thing we’d walk through.  I would still choose you.  I choose pushing through, working hard, letting go, dying to myself, moving forward and believing with you for great things.

My thankful list this Monday is short and all hinges of the absolute miracles God can do with the human heart.  Our life, our family, our marriage is testimony to just that.  If this “love day” finds you less than confident in love…can I just say to you today that there isn’t any heart-challenge that the redeeming love God gives can’t mend?  I used to say that because it sounded good – but now it is a resounding truth that sits deep in my soul because I’ve sat by in wonder and watched it happen.

Now to keep counting…

#372 – breaking years long destructive habits

#373 – learning over and again that incredible beauty is born out of great pain

#374 – looking back and seeing the faithfulness of God

#375 – realizing how much love is a choice not a feeling

#376 – how the “worst thing ever” can become a treasured gift

#377 – pure, unceasing, overflowing, perfect love

#378 – the fruit of saying “yes” when you want to say “enough, I’m done”

#379 – watching grace infiltrate our union