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.
Katie 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.