The Day(s) My Marriage Ended

The Day(s) My Marriage Ended

I married my husband, Daniel, on a warm spring day in 2011. Actually, since we were married March 19th, it was still technically winter. But a Georgia winter, meaning it was 65 degrees and sunny.

It was a beautiful day. My father-in-law performed the ceremony, and that day still goes down as one of the most fun of my life. We danced to all the wedding cliches, had enough candy to feed a medium-sized village, and even broke out into a flash mob at one point. It was perfect.

And then real life began. Ours, like so many young couples’, began with a joy all newlyweds have: The joy of lying. Not big lies. Not like you forgot to tell them you’re wanted in five states. But little, easy lies, like, “This dinner is delicious!” or “I definitely like this painting.” I used to sneak out of bed in the morning and brush my teeth before Daniel woke up so he would think my morning breath was naturally minty-fresh. You’re welcome for that free tip, humanity. We wanted to make each other happy, so we were willing to overlook towels on the floor or accidentally-destroyed projects (I’m still really sorry, Daniel). We made the extra effort because it was worth it.

We had been married for a year-and-a-half when we found out we were expecting our first baby. We were thrilled! As you probably know, our firstborn arrived a bit less traditionally than the average bear.

And that’s when our marriage ended the first time.

Gone were the days where our biggest worries were over whether to order pizza or go out for dinner instead. I didn’t get enough sleep to even think about waking up early to brush my teeth and sneak back into bed. Towels on the floor became just one more nuisance on a never-ending list I kept tabs on in my head.

Joshua needed our constant attention. After four months in the NICU, he came home to therapies, specialists, oxygen tubes, apnea monitors, and more. As time went on, the needs changed, but the stress of having a special-needs child didn’t.

You want to know one of the truths about having a kid with special needs? It kills your marriage. Kills it. We were both still there, still married, but the marriage we had known was gone forever. In its place was something almost unrecognizable. And it was getting worse every day.

I’ve said before that having a child like Josh changed me. In so many ways, it changed me for the better. It made me more compassionate, and more understanding of the struggles of others, and opened my eyes to an entirely new world.

In some ways, though, the changes weren’t as great. These were the changes that were the hardest to resist. I was so angry at God for allowing Joshua to have so many issues. I was angry at myself for not realizing something was wrong sooner in my pregnancy. I was angry at everyone around me. And while throughout the day, I made an effort to at least smile at other people, by the time I got home from the hospital or new specialist or therapy session, I decided I had given all I could. I couldn’t possibly deal with one more thing. And I took it out on Daniel.

Every forgotten task, every misunderstood conversation, every dish I washed alone – I kept track of it all. I knew how many times I had done the laundry and how many times Daniel hadn’t. Sure, he was working all day, but I was busy with the baby. It wasn’t fair. That’s what I kept repeating to myself. It wasn’t fair. I was a stay-at-home mom, but not by choice. I had never asked for this. I wasn’t even sure I wanted it for a long time. But then it arrived and was so much harder than I expected. And I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge. And not being up to the challenge made me defensive. And being defensive made me resentful. And being resentful made me bitter. And all of that culminated in my marriage slowly dissolving into two bickering parents who didn’t know how to stop arguing.

No one is ever 100% innocent in these kinds of things. But I will be honest and tell you that a lot of this was on me. Daniel tried his best to help me, but I didn’t want his help. And then I got angry at him for not helping me. And then he tried to help me again, and obviously that meant he thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job, and then I was angry again. And then he didn’t help, and how dare he not help me? It was a vicious cycle.

We went on like this for a few years. We had our daughter, Jenna, just 15 months after Josh was born. Daniel worked full-time, and I worked part-time for a while, eventually moving to a full-time position where I worked from home. We had two kids under the age of two, hectic jobs, financial struggles, and so many appointments to go to. Life was busy. Too busy. Jenna was a fussy newborn. Josh didn’t walk until Jenna was almost a year old. There was no rest, no time for our marriage anymore. Even if we had wanted to work on it, there was simply no time.

Same people. Different marriage.

And then one day, Daniel and I had a big argument. (I’m not trying to air our dirty laundry or anything, and I asked Daniel if he was okay with me writing this. Just want to put full disclosure out there.) It was bad. I was so angry and so tired. Josh had started an intense feeding therapy program. Daniel was dealing with some (thankfully resolved!) health issues. It was stressful. And we argued, and then I shouted that I wanted a divorce.

It wasn’t true. I didn’t want a divorce. I was so tired, so angry and bitter, and I just decided to say it, to goad my husband into arguing with me. But he didn’t argue. Instead, we sat in silence for a while. I knew I should apologize. But I wouldn’t. I didn’t.

I thought that I was already so broken that nothing could touch me anymore. But I was wrong. The look on Daniel’s face when I said those words to him made me feel like I had shattered all over again, like the day Josh was born, and all the days after when we heard more bad news. And so I made a choice.

I decided to try to let the little things go.

It was hard at first, and is still a struggle for me, if I’m being perfectly honest. But my goal was to stop looking for ways to blame Daniel, and instead look at the ways he loved me and showed me his love every day. I decided to think about his intent – did he not take the garbage out just to make my day harder? Probably not. Probably he had just come home from a really hard day at work and it slipped his mind while he was helping me with the dishes or feeding the kids. Probably I could just remind him, or even do it myself. And then we wouldn’t have to fight. Things didn’t have to turn into an argument every time one of us made a little mistake.

My other goal was to get to back to reading my Bible every day. That isn’t meant to sound self-righteous; I just knew I needed to hear what God had to say instead of screaming my own words at Him. As we say in this house, it was no longer my turn.

So I started working on my goals. And I’ve messed up so many times. But it’s been getting easier and easier.

And that’s how my marriage ended the second time.

Same people. Different marriage.

Slowly but surely, the arguments grew to be less frequent. We sought ways to work together instead of ways to blame each other for the stresses in our life. Our other situations didn’t change. Josh still had a lot of needs and was a lot of work. We still had two very little kids and very little time for ourselves and our marriage. Those things wouldn’t change. But we could. We did.

When I first decided to write about this, I was hesitant. I didn’t want to paint Daniel in a bad light, because he is a wonderful, godly man, who married a slightly crazy, super short woman. I didn’t want people to judge us. I didn’t want to come across as having so many struggles.

But I don’t think we’re alone in these struggles. Even if you don’t have a kid with special needs, your marriage has likely hit a rough patch. If it hasn’t, please submit yourself for testing at the nearest health facility, because you might be a robot.

And if you do have a kid with special needs, and your marriage is struggling, and you’re not sure how you will possibly make it through one more day of therapy, and leg braces, and helmets, and practicing stairs, and giving choices, and being a constant cheerleader and advocate for your child so they never have to feel different – it’s going to be okay. Things might not change. But you can.

Same people. Three different marriages. And we would never change a day.

D and K

Today’s the Day

Today’s the Day

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in the merry lands of Georgia. She had a lovely life, with a husband who loved her, and whom she loved, and two children whom she only rarely considered selling on eBay. She spent her days raising these children, and providing mediocre meals for her husband, and writing on a giant whiteboard calendar that she made herself in spite of her inability to craft. And it was a good life.

But the woman wanted to do just one thing more: She wanted to be healthy. Not, like, to run a marathon, because that sounded terrible. More like healthy enough to live a long life and set a good example for her children.

The woman tried lots of different ways to make this work. She took advice from trusted friends, and tried various programs that had been proven to work. And sometimes they did. The woman would always start out strong, and she would slowly become healthier. But life, as it so often does, would get in the way, and the woman would have to miss a weigh-in or stop by a drive-through. When that happened, the woman felt like she had failed. And if she had already failed, what was the point of continuing?

When she failed, the woman was ashamed. She was angry at herself for not working harder to stick to a plan that she had promised to finish. She was sad that she had disappointed herself and others, especially her husband and kids. She was embarrassed that she had let herself become so unhealthy to begin with, regardless of the reasons. She did not want to tell her friends and family that she was trying to be healthier, because she did not want them to watch her struggle and fail.

One day – probably a Tuesday – the woman found herself sitting on her couch at home. She had spent so much time researching the best ways to be healthy, and joined all the right groups on the Facebook, and became a gym member, and yet, she was no healthier than before. She was a few pounds lighter, but she knew she had such a long way to go. And as she sat on her couch, she wondered where it all went wrong. Why wasn’t she motivated to do anything to become and stay healthy?

That was really the heart of her issue: She wasn’t motivated. Because she didn’t believe anything would work. Life, though still a blessing, had beaten down the woman’s spirit over the last few years. She wanted to be strong and joyful, but it was just too hard when something went wrong. She had taken the hopefulness and positivity that was once part of her and slowly put it away. Oh, she could get to it when she wanted to, but she found those instances were fewer and farther between. And the more she put away, the less she wanted to find it again. And so it went.

As the woman sat on her couch, lamenting the woes of her life, she found a picture of herself from long ago. Well, it was really only about six years ago, but the woman was going for a dramatic effect in her story. The picture showed a man and woman on their wedding day. They were, of course, dressed up; he looking so handsome, and she so beautiful. But it wasn’t their clothes or their weight or her makeup or the lighting that made them look this way.

It was their absolute joy.

And as the woman looked at the photo some more, she wondered if, maybe, she could have that joy again. She knew it wouldn’t just come back right away. But if she believed it would return, it would.

That was the key to her struggles the whole time. Every weight-loss program, every announcement of giving up sugar, every promise to make it to the gym four times a week  – she had never believed she could do any of it. And after she tired of going through the motions, she stopped.

So the woman made a decision. She decided to believe that she could become healthier. Not to fit into a certain size or wear a special outfit, but to prove to herself that she could. And to prove to her own daughter that she could. And to finally feel the joy that she had contained for years.

The woman knew that, ultimately, no number on a scale would bring her the joy she sought. She knew that her ultimate identity was found in Jesus, and from there she was so much more than a certain weight or measurement. But she also knew that this was the right step to take, both for herself, and for her children. And she believed she could take it. No special classes or outrageous goals or shame if she stumbled. Just belief that she could take the first step. And then the next. And then the next. And then the rest.

So she did.

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The Meaning of Easter

The Meaning of Easter

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As I scrolled through my newsfeed on Facebook this week (do you notice how many posts start with that sentence? I need an intervention), I saw lots of posts about what people are getting their kids for Easter.

That concept by itself sort of surprised me. I grew up celebrating Easter, but we stuck to egg hunts and chocolate bunnies and maybe a Backstreet Boys t-shirt (or was that Valentine’s Day?). We gathered as a family, enjoyed a meal together, and celebrated our risen Savior.

I’m not saying that to be arrogant – this is a testament to how my parents raised me, not the good choices I made. But as I see more and more posts about Easter baskets stuffed with presents and toys and more presents and more toys, I realize I do have a choice to make. Daniel and I have to decide what celebrating Easter means for our family.

I struggled with deciding how to go about this for a few days. I am what you would call a Stage Five Overthinker, and soon I was in a spiral of “NO PRESENTS AT ALL but but but other kids get presents and mine will be left out THEY MUST LEARN TO DO WITHOUT SUCH THINGS but but but a little stuffed bunny never hurt anybody NO ONLY JESUS-RELATED THINGS but but but what about an Easter basket with a cross on it??” and so on. You should see me try to decide what to order at a restaurant.

However, as I was walking through Target (all hail), huffy and alone in my principles, I saw a sign for Easter candy. The sign read “Make Easter a Little Sweeter.”

And it was there that I had a moment of clarity. I find that candy often brings me clarity.

There is no way to make Easter sweeter. It’s impossible. It’s impossible because the reason we celebrate Easter is that Jesus died for my sins and rose three days later and made it possible for us to spend eternity with God.

It just doesn’t get sweeter than that, y’all.

Easter is about remembering a time when God’s Son volunteered to come down to Earth, live among sin and sorrow, and then die a terrible death so that no one would ever have to die again. He chose to make my wrongdoings His wrongdoings and gave me the chance to walk with God every day. He did that because He loves us. He loves me, and you, and everyone.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not condemning presents on Easter. I am pro-egg hunts and may or may not be snacking on some Whopper Eggs while I type. My kids will dress up a little fancier for church tomorrow and we will have a fun day together.

But as we hunt for eggs and open our baskets and pass the rolls, let’s remember why we’re celebrating. Remember why you’re with your family this weekend. Remember why this is a holiday. Remember the real meaning of Easter, and teach it to your kids, and then break out the chocolate.

And then send me some, pls & thx.

Happy Easter, everyone!

A need that is special

A need that is special

If you had asked me five years ago how I pictured my life would turn out, I would have told you that I was totally flexible, that I would be happy with whatever God has in store for me.

I also would have been lying through my teeth. I had a definite vision of how things would go. I was already dating Daniel, so of course we would be married, which we so are. We would both be working and saving for a house, which we would move into after a couple of years, which teeeeeechnically we did…we just don’t own the house. Then we would talk about kids. I wanted a boy first and then a girl – am I good, or what? Read more

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

They say never meet your heroes. But what they should have said was never accomplish your dreams. Unless you like feeling hollow and empty on the inside. I’m not sure what to do now. I’m not sure who I can trust. It all just seems so… meaningless.

But let’s back up. The only place to begin a story is, well, at the beginning, and this story is no different. Read more