Always Ever Both
We hated how often people would say trash like, “How many days until you sign your life away?” prior to us getting married. More so, it was disturbing how many of them were good, sweet, seemingly happily married people, getting their humor kicks by poor-mouthing covenantal partnership. Let’s not give grave warnings to engaged people as we get older, we would say under our breaths as we walked away.
We never have, and I hope we never will.
People made statements like this before we gave birth as well, and it was dampening. I think I understand their goal, maybe? At least this is the benefit of the doubt I am offering. People want other people to know that it’s going to be hard so that they’re not caught off guard or deceived by the folks in the world who make marriage look like there are never any arguments over bath towels or parenthood look like there’s always time to get skinny.
It’s important to share reality. But bad omens are not reality.
Reality is marathoning this life, in all of its struggle and joy, with the people you love. It’s the long, good suffering. The rich celebrations of high and low seasons. The balance of what is hard, what is worth it, and what is making us better–what’s filling us with life.
We’ll be married four years this fall, and we’ve been through more change than I imagine is normal. Five months into marriage, we decided to move into a community house where we shared our living space with 30 neighborhood youth more afternoons than not. We felt very alive and full of purpose at first. With our finances stabilizing, Luke was beginning to take steps toward leaving his job and starting his own design business. I was developing a nonprofit program, enjoying a lot of variety and people interaction, and struggling to make or keep boundaries. We became grafted into our neighborhood that year, which was so special. It continues to be invaluably special, despite the toll that it took.
We started seeing a counselor that second year as the lines between home and work and ministry started getting blurry. I think there’s something significant that happens in the counseling process even when the counselor isn’t particularly fantastic (which ours was). A thing occurs when you call to make the appointment, when you step out of your car and reach for your partner’s hand or take a deep breath that says, “I am willing, I am being proactive, I am determined to do what it takes.”
I think healing starts in those little moments, far before the analysis and the homework kick in.
We got pregnant that fall, in the thick of marriage counseling. I suppose it would be logical for me to tell you that our pregnancy was unplanned since surely we would have waited until stresses had leveled out before trying. But that’s not our story. We decided to try even when things were a bit on edge for us because it felt like it was time.
We’re very glad we did.
Always having been a great team even in the rough patches, our counselor was quick to remind us of the care and intention she could clearly see. But our surroundings had to change, she would say. How can your life become less stressful and more boundaried?
We began to take steps to move houses and eventually jobs to help bring some stability into the different areas of our life.
Then pregnancy turned out to be such a sweet and special time.
I remember sitting on the couch at the Cassitys (me 5 months pregnant, Katie 8) and her saying, “Don’t you feel like you’ve never been more in love than while pregnant??”
It was so true. We were growing life. We were taking part in one of the wildest occurrences in nature. It was new, it was important, it was fragile and energized and fueled with possibility of who and what was to come next. It was unifying, bringing communication with old friends and new mamas and thrilled families.
I longed for that feel-good energy to bubble over into postpartum.
And it did in moments. But it was also a very strained season for our little home of three (plus dog, who still has yet to grow back all the hair she lost when the new human arrived). Laced with the most significant milestones and happiness, we struggled to get our feet back under us in our own relationship.
Because we were tired.
Because we were winging so much of it.
Because when the colds wouldn’t stop, or there was a shooting a street over, or the bank account began to get low, we were scared. And we get mad when we’re scared.
Because, though our house was still often a tight-ship run and our love and care for each other was still prominent, we had temporarily lost the tools that we needed to be kind or not easily offended.
How crazy is it that during months when so much love and excitement are FILLING your days , it can feel like you’ve never been more raw.
We went back to counseling when Bridger was three months old, which our counselor told us we would need to do at the end of the first round, despite how assured her we’ll see how it goes, with hearts in our eyes.
A few sessions later, another job change, some date nights and trips and real steps toward stability in our environment (and an older baby who is sleeping and not getting as many colds) we’ve been freed up to start seeing each other again.
Oh, there you are.
Oh…here we are.
I remember us.
Us—the great team, the morning snugglers, the terrible dancers. Us—the excited creatives, the home makers, the popcorn eaters. Us—the good friends, the sweet partners, the balancing opposites…making it through another season that was both challenging and wonderful.
Not just challenging. Not just wonderful.
Always ever both.