marriage

Marriage Diaries: What the Promise is For

I’m honored to have one of my best blogging friends, Katie from Wonderfully Made, sharing her story as part of the Marriage Diaries today! She and her husband have been through a LOT together, and I really admire the family they’ve built together and how they are using their experiences for good. Welcome, Katie!

And we’re dancing in the minefields

We’re sailing in the storms

And this is harder than we dreamed

But I believe that’s what the promise is for…

-Andrew Peterson, Dancing in the Minefields

The day before Thanksgiving 2008, I was rushed to the emergency room for severe abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, and loss of consciousness. My boyfriend, Jeff, carried me to the car and my mother drove while I dry-heaved in the back seat. The next day, my condition worsened and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I stayed for eight days. During that time, I was not able to eat, almost lost my colon, and was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I was 22 years old.

That December, I muscled my way through final exams and papers, and graduated from the University of Georgia with a dual degree in Journalism and International Relations. I had big plans for my career and was determined not to let Crohn’s Disease stand in my way. On Christmas Eve of that year, Jeff proposed before friends and family at an annual Christmas Eve party I had attended since I was a little girl. It was the way I had secretly wanted to be proposed to all my life. We hugged and kissed friends and family, and smiled from ear to ear all night.

As we left the party that night, a gentle rain began to fall.

After Christmas, we planned our September wedding. We were living together in a rental home in the suburbs, ecstatic about the life we were beginning together. Two months after our engagement and our wedding was planned, we found out I was pregnant. I felt my plans crushed by the weight of a tiny being buried deep within me. I could feel the future judgmental stares, the words whispered behind my back, and looked at Jeff, pregnancy test in hand, and said, “What are we going to do?” He smiled at me and said, “We become parents.”

‘Cause the only way to find your life

Is to lay your own life down

And I believe it’s an easy price

For the life that we have found…

We called our families, bumped up our September wedding to April, and on a sunny spring afternoon vowed to love one another through sickness and health, good times and bad, rich and poor before our closest family and friends in a small high school chapel in Roswell, GA. And as our son grew within me, I laid my career ambitions aside, embraced motherhood, and began to plan for life with our precious baby boy.

When I was seven-months pregnant, Jeff was laid off from his job. Defeated and worried about the life we would provide for our unborn son, we packed up our home and moved into my mom’s basement.

At 38 weeks, I developed preeclampsia and our son, Jack, was born via emergency c-section. But at 9lb., 2oz. and 22″ long, Jack was born full of strength and from the moment we heard his booming cry in the delivery room, we were in love. Jack brought joy and light and hope back into our lives, and just a few months later, Jeff got a job. With a new spring in our step, we said goodbye to my mom’s basement and moved into a rental home down the street.

Three months into our lease, though, we discovered the house had rats, carbon monoxide leaks, and cabinets began falling off the walls. The landlords told us if we did not like it, we needed to find another place to live, because they would not fix the problems. So we moved again to an apartment across town. Things were wonderful, until we got a spider infestation and a snake slithered into our apartment triggering a Crohn’s flare up for me when I was 3 months pregnant with our daughter, Kristen. In spite of that and forfeiting our security deposit, the apartment complex charged us for leaving our lease early.

All around us, we saw young couples beginning their careers, buying their dream houses, planning beautiful weddings, going on fun honeymoons, and sharing pictures of their newlywed adventures. We celebrated when we were with them, but behind closed doors fought to understand why our challenges seemed so many and theirs so few.

Off to another rental house in the suburbs we went. My husband was laid off again due to downsizing and I was put on bedrest. When winter hit we realized the heat did not work on the ground floor of our house. Our landlord did the best she could afford, and bought us a portable heater which would heat two rooms at a time. We bundled up and stayed upstairs as much as we could. That same year, our beautiful and brilliant son began screaming for hours on end each day, smashing into walls, sliding out of chairs, falling apart when asked a question, running into the street without any concept of safety, banging his head on his bed, rocking obsessively, and perseverating on certain sounds and events to the point he could not function. Exhausted, frustrated, and concerned, we sent a letter to Jack’s pediatrician. A month later, our beautiful boy was diagnosed with autism.

During that most difficult year, several families from our church took us under their wing and loved us as though we were their own. More than that, they embraced us as Christ would – fully and completely. They met us in our suffering and our pain and carried us through some of our darkest hours. It was also during that year that Jeff and I realized that the promise we made to one another was deeper than we ever could have known on that sunny day in April. More than a promise made before family and friends, it was a covenant forged in love with God. And that promise with Him is what led us from shadow into light time and time again.

‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man

So there’s nothing left to fear

So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands

‘Til the shadows disappear

‘Cause He promised not to leave us

And His promises are true

So in the face of all this chaos

Baby, I can dance with you…

There have been many days when I wanted to toss in the towel, when I have cried out to the Lord Why?, when I have felt lost and without hope. But through our trials, I have learned marriage is not about the plans we have made, but the promise we have made. It is about the life we weave together. It is about finding each other when we lose ourselves in the hardship and the crosses we bear. It’s about faith and trust in a God who is love. Who never leaves us and breathes life in our hearts when we feel we cannot take another step.

So when I lose my way, find me

And, when I loose love’s chains, bind me

At the end of all my faith to the end of all my days

When I forget my name, remind me.

This life is not comprised of one random act to the next. It is forged in a series of moments by a Creator who knows us better than we know ourselves. It is in that trust we embark on the journey of marriage. And when we lose our way, He is there to lift us up, to bring us from darkness to light. To bring us together through sickness and health, good times and bad, rich and poor. That’s what the promise is for.

walking weddingKatie is the blessed wife of an Air Force veteran and mother of two precious children. Her oldest child, Jack, age 4, was diagnosed with autism in January 2013. Later that year, Katie felt the Lord calling her to share her family’s journey and she launched Wonderfully Made, a blog dedicated to encouraging women along their journeys of faith, motherhood, marriage, and special needs. Though Jack’s special needs present many challenges, it is her family’s deepest hope and prayer that what they share at Wonderfully Made will encourage you to laugh, cry, learn, accept, and rejoice in what makes our children who they are—perfectly and wonderfully made by God.

You can find Katie at wonderfully-made.net, on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

  • Haili
    May 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Beautifully written, Katie.

  • Katie @ Wonderfully Made
    May 22, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you, Haili! I just popped over to your blog and LOVE your beautifully flawed idea. It’s something that’s be on my heart a lot lately, too. I will be following the series and linking up!

  • Van
    May 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    So many back-handed blessings! Those hardships forced you to rely on God because everything on earth let you down. It is always easy to see God in hindsight, but you found Him in the moment–amidst the rubble. Amazing.

    • Katie @ Wonderfully Made
      May 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Sometimes it feels so tough to find Him in the midst of the turmoil, but you are so right – He IS in the rubble!

  • Ashley Ponder Richards
    May 23, 2014 at 9:42 am

    This was so incredible to read. My husband and I are having a difficult time right now. It isn’t so much that we are having fault with each other as much as we are having a lot of just bad luck stuff going on. It does take a toll on a marriage though. It’s hard to share the grief without feeling like you are giving a burden.

    • Katie @ Wonderfully Made
      May 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Oh Ashley, you put that so well – “it’s hard to share the grief without feeling like you are giving a burden.” It can be so hard when it feels like the deck is stacked against you, and an even greater challenge to stay united through grief and extenuating circumstances that bear down on your marriage. Hang in there, friend, and know that you are not alone along this journey!

  • Alane
    May 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I kinda stumbled upon your post. I am sure that I was led here.
    I am the mother of an autistic son that is 27 years old. When I read your first diagnosis, I started weeping. It is the hardest long night. It is the hell that you never signed up for (that you remember). It is the club that you never wanted to be a member of. It is the death of a child that you thought you were bearing and rearing and now letting drift away when your arms are too tired to embrace this new screaming, flapping, quiet, wild, unfamiliar child. I have been there. I am surviving still. It is a hard road. I will not lie to you and tell you that you are somehow so “special” to be given this child. You become special because you love your child and will do anything to help them.
    So soldier on my sweet mother friend. I can tell you that you will heal and mourn with this child as you go forward. He will bring you joy in ways you never would imagine..and you will become stronger that you thought you were capable. And if you ever need a listening ear…come.
    BTW, my boy Neil, travels on public transportation by himself. He has served in volunteer things and has his own debit card. He is happy. He will always live with us but that is fine. He does need to clean his room though…..

  • Katie @ Wonderfully Made
    May 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Alane, I have tears in my eyes. Thank you not only for reading, but for sharing your insight, experience, and perspective. You truly captured the many aspects and emotions of becoming a special needs mom so well. Though having a child with autism can be a difficult journey, it is also one filled with blessings, including connecting with kindred spirits like you. God bless you and your Neil!

  • 7 things I learned in May
    June 2, 2014 at 4:26 am

    […] To bring us together through sickness and health, good times and bad, rich and poor. That’s what the promise is for. (To read more about the promise of marriage and what it means to me, please visit my guest post […]

  • tara
    June 2, 2014 at 4:44 am

    Katie…what a beautiful story woven and intertwined into God’s grand story of redemption.

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