On this day, five years ago, I secretly married Ryan at the courthouse only weeks before our official wedding day. Back then we were like two love struck teenagers, overly eager to begin our life together and not wanting to waste a single minute apart. I’d say we’ve had quite the adventure since that impulsive moment before the judge approximately 1,825 days ago.
It all began in 2010 with our initial meeting in Savannah, Georgia. We wined and dined and fell in love instantly. A couple of months later, with the ring wrapped around my finger, he moved to Michigan; however, as time moved forward, we felt as if Michigan wasn’t our family’s forever home. We prayed, discussed, and decided to take the plunge in 2013 by making the gutsy decision to move the family down South to rural Tennessee where we began renovating an old farmhouse on twenty acres of land with only a dream of “the simple life” to push us onward. We’ve experienced two pregnancies together – one ending at 11 weeks with a devastating miscarriage, and the other resulting in a beautiful baby girl who doesn’t really believe in sleeping through the night. We’ve cared for one another through minor surgeries, two kidney infections, and a blood transfusion with the 8th and final child. We’ve broken strongholds together, dealt with grief and the past, adopted all of the kids, have sought and continue to seek out the best possible opportunities for our handicapped son, addressed numerous blended family issues, completed a Master’s Degree, are slowly learning how to completely live off the land, celebrated a book deal - a dream come true, - managed rental properties, sold five homes, raised 2 two year olds at one time, enjoyed our ten seconds of fame with the Today Show, and through it all have been living our life somewhat transparently online hoping that our story will encourage others to hold steadfast to their faith through hard times.
No wonder I'm tired, and that’s just off the top of my head.
(First time we all met each other in Guymon, Oklahoma)
Times have changed in many ways, and times have not changed at all in many other ways. We’ve had our moments of bickering, arguing, and sometimes even getting really pissed off with one another as do most healthy couples who stay together long enough for the endorphins to wear thin. We’ve also had many moments of pure joy and giddiness because we’ve always prioritized our relationship- recognizing it as an invaluable component to our family life that could and would get lost quickly in the midst of the madness if we allowed it to. That’s one decision I’m convinced we’ve done right by our family – always taking time to nurture us. Some of our other choices? The jury’s still out on those.
We are starting to look differently than we did when we first met. The days and the adventures have aged us a bit. He’s graying (but still super handsome), and I’m beginning to see lines etched across my face. I sometimes worry about him still finding me attractive as the years go by because he did meet me when I was 33, not 18, so my journey to middle age seems to be zealously approaching – especially with all these kids and sleep deprived nights. We also respond differently to one another than we first would in moments of tension or confusion. There is more grace and patience as we’ve unearthed the quirks and curiosities of each other, and we are much more communicative about everything as we both steadfastly believe that communication is the well spring to intimacy.
In this current season, life is hard as we toil and till under the sun. We accept our choices – each choice not made lightly but instead through prayer and petition, but our choices have not led us down an easy path. However, we’ve been assured by many that nothing worth having is ever easy. I guess we’re banking on that to be the truth. We have 8 kids. Under 13. And speaking of 13 year olds, almost two of those. And a baby. And an 11 year old who can't speak or walk and blended family issues which seem more prevalent as our children age and precious little sleep for over a year now. Have I mentioned the sleep factor?! And living off the land as simply as we are able to which translates into lots of good ole hard labor by the sweat of our brows, but it can be hard to labor productively when you're not sleeping much. Oh, back to that pesky sleep issue. So many responsibilities. So many little ones to hold it together for. Yes, our tempers sometimes flare, and we say horribly ugly things like -
“I feel so stuck!” or “I should be doing something much more meaningful than just being a housewife!”
FOR GOODNESS SAKE! I HAVE A MASTER’S DEGREE! WHY AM I WASHING 20 LOADS OF LAUNDRY A DAY?!
Our patience runs thin, and we wail and we yell and we spew. Not always but sometimes when we’re in the deep valleys these actions and these words do occur. They aren’t our finest moments.
That's marriage. That's life. That’s being in a true relationship, and at times, in those valley moments, we really do feel absolutely stuck as if we are wasting our life away doing laundry and cooking for ungrateful souls. Stuck like a moth to a flame. So drawn in and unable to move away, and honestly, the two of us, we are stuck – we signed on the dotted line time and time again, and that's okay. Maybe that sounds really unromantic to some – especially on a wedding anniversary day- but it’s our truth, and we usually own it. We most definitely own it after the fantasy well runs dry and after realizing that those fantasies aren’t really all that great to begin with. I mean, who really wants to drink margaritas all day long on a beach in Mexico by themselves? That would not be good for anybody's waistline- all those empty calories...right?!
I’d rather have honesty and stuckness any day than deceitful roses, empty promises, and Mexican fantasies, and thankfully feelings are usually really fickle and not very reliable at that. Thank Jesus for stuck feelings because by the grace of God we are in but a season. A fleeting moment. A changing reality. The seasons will turn and babies will learn how to sleep, and teenagers will go off to college, and there will be time to exhale once again.
We made our vows before the Almighty on this day five years ago.
I am grateful.
I’m grateful to be the moth to his flame
I want this man, this life, and these kids in good times and in bad.
I want him on the other end of the phone as I lament about how tired I am once again.
I want him holding my hand through insecurities and questions as a mom.
I want him praying with me each morning.
I want him beside me choking down turnips at the dinner table in order to set a good example to six pairs of eyes intently watching for dad’s reaction.
I want to go on a date night each week with him, even if it means bringing the baby.
I want this reality.
I want this life with every fiber of my being.
I just wish it were a tiny bit easier some days (and nights).
I love you Ryan. Happy Anniversary Babe.
Just keep livin!!