Fairytale Proposal and Happily Ever After

Ten years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn’t imagine then how one “traffic stop” would change my life.

I’m visiting with family so I don’t have the time to wax poetic on this special anniversary of my fairytale proposal, but I can say, with all the challenges we have behind us and all the challenges we have before us, I would say YES again. The rest of this post is updated from a year and a half ago, but still really true.

April 6, 2006 felt like an ordinary Thursday, but it wasn’t. Today, as I reflect on where we’ve been, I can see how much God has grown our marriage. And we’re so blessed to have had it filmed to share forever, and have such a wonderful start to our lives together.

Learning to go #30DaysWithoutComplaint is even more challenging when I have been sick. I have felt really crummy, and I’ve tried really hard not to gripe. Saturday, I crashed hard, and my husband stepped up. Despite working early mornings and 24 hour shifts, and not getting a weekend, he has selflessly given to me when he has been home to do so.

When the sheriff pulled me over, I couldn't imagine how this would become a fairy tale proposal. Click To Tweet

He has cooked and cleaned. He even shooed me away from doing dishes a couple of times. He said, “I’m trying to take care of you! Would you just let me?!” Sometimes, in order to be a blessing, we have to let others be our blessing. And what a blessing it is to have someone offer to care for you not out of obligation, but out of love.

Sometimes in order to be a blessing, we have to let others bless us. Click To Tweet

I felt my husband’s ‘thank you’ for all the times I’ve served him quietly, and I felt God’s love through my husband. Even in the worst moments of the past few days, I’ve had reasons to be grateful instead of complain.

I live in a country which has wealth more abundant than 90% of the world can imagine. I have purified running water and plenty of food available, even on days I do not work to procure it. I have the luxury of being sidelined and sick because we have a stocked freezer and pantry.

Yesterday, I was taking a shower and all of a sudden, lost water pressure. I realized my husband must be using the hose outside. Standing under a pathetic little drizzle, I started getting upset. I could feel myself wanting to complain, so I prayed, ‘God give me your perspective.’

My husband was carefully hosing down the driveway after bringing home a deer to carve for a friend’s family. During these lean times for both of our families, we share resources. They watch our pets, bring us fresh eggs, and occasionally babysit Lil Bit.

He was working hard all day for someone else, what a wonderful husband! Even with low water pressure, I had a hot shower all to myself. I couldn’t get past the image of all the people in the world to whom pure water in which to bathe would seem an embarrassment of riches.

Why share all this on Veterans Day? My husband is a soldier. He has served overseas many times in various capacities during his time in the Marine Corps and US Army. He spent four years of his life in Iraq, trying to defend our values and nation from those who spread hatred. While not untouched by war, he has come home alive and unhurt. Not everyone can hug their veteran today.

Also, Veteran’s Day is my wedding anniversary. We’ve been married 8 years this afternoon. Six months prior, he came home from Iraq and surprised me with an outlandish proposal.

I thought I was getting arrested, but instead I was getting a fairytale proposal.

Military life isn’t easy. We can spend time complaining or be grateful. We live in a country so free people can scream from the top of their lungs ideas that are completely opposite of what our nation stands for, and a soldier will say, “but I fought for his right to say it.”

My marriage isn’t perfect, but it is growing stronger. We have enough. We have each other, a lovely home, and amazing kids. I get to choose my perspective. When I choose to focus on God, the complaints die away unsaid, my heart turns from bitter to blessed.

Every low moment in our lives is a chance for God to whisper His perspective into our hearts. Every small joy is a gift to us. Every challenge a chance to grow and overcome. Even in moments that destroy and devastate, God shows up. He is present, giving us rest, using people to love us.

I am supremely grateful that when my husband asked me what I wanted for this anniversary, I honestly couldn’t think of anything.

The fairytale isn't having perfection, it's having perspective, God's perspective. Click To Tweet

James 1:2-4 ESV  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

I’m counting it ALL JOY, learning to be complete, realizing that in Christ, I am truly lacking in nothing. And that is how our fairytale proposal turns in our Happily Ever After.

The Secret Service

What do you do when you are so angry you can’t function, so bitter the walls are closing in on you, so empty there are no words? You join the Secret Service.

A few years ago, my marriage was failing. We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t talk much. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team. And while we didn’t fight often, by the time we did, we’d both been harboring so many hurts and slights, that we were boilers ready to explode.

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying to be the “good” wife, be a good person, live morally and he was just such a jerk. He was selfish and mean. He wanted to hunt more than he wanted to be home with us. He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. From using the last of the milk, but not putting it on the list, to breaking my favorite dishes with his carelessness, to leaving me home with the stomach flu and toddler to sit in a boat waiting for ducks. If I ever complained, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to live the rest of my life with this awful person who just hurt me at every turn. I guarded my heart from him, went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would wake up and start being what I needed. What a selfish creep .  .  .

. . . I was.

When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my sin, my need for Grace, and true forgiveness. I can’t tell you how it changed my heart. A veil lifted. I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and pains.

I realized that I had been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the place God should be. I wrote a post about my running away from God, trying to use the world to fill my emptiness a few months ago. When I keep reading about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept praying about it. I kept reading the Bible and praying.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I pursued God, asked him to fill my heart, to give me what I need, my cup got full. I was able to stop seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function. As God filled my heart with grace and forgiveness, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

And I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time, not literally, but emotionally. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall we were building between us. Even when I had been doing the right things, I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful things I had done for him during the day and wait for his thanks. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

I was holding up my heart via the laundry or dishes, and he was smashing it over and over. But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing this to serve him or to get something from him?”

Ouch! I wanted love, recognition, respect.

Wait, he probably did, too. What if he was being a jerk because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs? Ooh, and all of a sudden, I saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion. I saw a soul God wants in His kingdom.

And a lesson came to mind about how we serve the needy, but it really resonated with how we serve anyone in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Our Father sees in secret. God will see my serving my husband quietly. Loved people love people, (See 1 John 4) and I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could see his need for me to love him. I started looking for ways to serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret things for my him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

I started to look for ways to just quietly do things for him without his asking. Like noticing that his toothpaste tube is nearly empty and replacing it, adding it to the grocery list when his shower gel is running low, making his lunch and preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been long.How the secret service saved my marriage. Heaven Not Harvard

One of those jobs that I wouldn’t have even thought to do before I let Christ reign in my heart is picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the floor of the bathroom. Every morning. He literally has to walk past his closet (where his hamper is) in order to leave the house every morning, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor wadded up under the edge of the vanity. I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Several years ago, I would have nagged him about being so lazy and careless or even selfish for leaving them there. It would have become an infection between us. A couple of years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that my service to you is about humility and being used by You without drawing attention to myself.” I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When my heart got filled with service, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. I started giving him some grace when his day at work had been too much for him and he needed some silence before he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

Because nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return. Nothing I ever did changed my husband’s heart more than my secret service and how I softened towards him by doing it.

And when I was sharing with a friend who was struggling in her own marriage about how mine got turned around by God, I told her the story of the dirty underwear, how I would pray, “Thank you, Lord, that these underwear remind me my husband isn’t in Iraq.”  Her eyes filled with tears, and she joined the ranks, our Secret Service.

She started to see the same truth that God had pointed out in me. Our culture asks what is in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude, and I’ve never been more full of joy than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity, gross underwear.

badgeBesides, the underwear was just a start. Once you join the Secret Service, you will find so many ways to quietly serve people, and those are my treasures I hold in my hand like sweet pearls, knowing I am seen, I am treasured, I am loved by my Heavenly Father.

Are you in? We’re taking new members everyday.;)

 

 

Cozy Reading Spot Link- up