Last night my husband and I enjoyed something we rarely get: steak. We went to the grocery store and saw that our local Cub Foods was running a sale on good New York Strip steaks. Normally over $11.00 a pound, yesterday the price was $6.99 a pound. A bargain for good steaks! I found a pack of four and even though I had another dinner planned, we decided those steaks looked too good to wait on. Dave grilled two of them outside while I prepared long grain and wild rice, french bread, and home canned peaches to go with the steaks. The other two steaks were sealed and frozen for a future meal. As we lingered over our meal, we talked about our marriage–where we were, where we are, and some of the things that took place in between. Both of us are fully aware that this marriage story could have ended very differently than it did. We reminisced about the difficulties of those dark days and remembered some of the things that took place that could only have been from God. For example, before I actually called off the divorce, Friend 1 and I met for lunch. We went to Buffalo Wild Wings. When it came time to pay the bill, she handed me a card she had kept in her purse. I looked confused. She told me that Dave had given it to her to give to me that day. I opened it. The card inside brought tears to my eyes. What was inside the card brought even more. Inside, Dave had written a note telling me that he loved me very much. He included $40 and told me that lunch with Friend 1 was on him. I remember being so angry at first–how could I hate him when he did something nice like that? I remember fighting back tears since I didn’t want the whole restaurant to see me cry. I remember asking Friend 1, “Do you think he really has changed?” I can’t describe her reply–you’d have to know her to picture it, but she smiled slightly and said, “It sure seems that way–and I sure hope so.” God was already at work in Dave. I just needed to be patient.
Marriage is hard work. Having come through the fire of a tumultuous marriage, years of fighting, a separation, a near divorce, and a host of other problems, one thing we have learned is that marriage takes work–ongoing and intentional work. I don’t want anyone reading these entries to think for a second that we now have a perfect marriage or that we have discovered a formula to keep marital problems at bay. In fact, in the nearly three years that has followed the marriage story chronicled here, we have, on more than one occasion, gotten angry with each other. We have, on more than one occasion, said things that have hurt the other. We have, on more than one occasion, fought over money…you get the idea. The difference now, though, is we are able to see the downward spiral starting and are able to catch it before it spirals out of control. Because people like Finance Guy invested in us, we are able to see when we need to take a step back and re-evaluate our finances. Because an older and wiser man like Mentor invested in Dave, he is able to see himself getting angry and has the tools to not let it get the best of him (for too long at least). Because Pastor 2 believed the Bible to be true and was not ashamed of that, he told me on more than one occasion that divorce should not be my first option. Because Friend 1 took the time to listen to me and to really hear my heart’s cry, she prayed for me–for our marriage. We have learned skills necessary to a good marriage, but we know that those skills, like a favorite knife, often need sharpening. We make it a point to spend time together. We spend the money to attend a marriage conference put on by our church because we know that we can never assume we are done learning.
Speaking of church, there are a few more dots I need to connect for you in that area…
In June of 2012, near the date of our 25th anniversary, Dave and I renewed our vows. Gathered around us to witness this amazing event were some of the people mentioned in the story. Also in attendance were all four of our kids as well as our future son-in-law (he is now our official son-in-law!) I remember feeling so much in love with Dave on that day–even more so in love than I was on our wedding day. Dave’s change was genuine. He was truly a new creation, one that only God could take credit for. There came a point, though, that it became difficult for us to attend church. The reasons for that are not something I intend to write about, but I will say that it was crystal clear to us as well as to our kids, especially DJ, that this may not be a good place for us to stay. In July of that year, DJ asked us if we knew about the Harvest Bible Chapel in Maple Grove. We did not know about it. He told us he was planning to visit there the next Sunday. He told us he would love for us to go with him, but if we did not want to, he would go by himself. Knowing DJ was only home for the summer, we wanted to support him so we agreed to go with him. On the third Sunday in July, 2012, Dave, DJ, Anna and I walked into Maple Grove Junior High School. We knew no one. We didn’t even know where to go once we got inside. The wonderful lady who greeted us at the door immediately recognized that we were new. She walked us down the hall and into the waiting area outside the auditorium. She found the pastor and introduced him to us. We found a seat and waited for worship to start. By the end of that service, Dave and I knew there was something different about this place. The result of our attendance that day is another whole story to tell, but I will say that I know without a doubt that God led us to Harvest West Minneapolis. In a way that only God could do, a simple visit to a church in Chicago during a family weekend came full circle as we found a Harvest church plant 30 miles from where we lived.
I have learned that God can make beauty from ashes. I have learned that God sees everything and has a purpose for everything. I have learned that love looks differently once it has been put through the fire. I have learned that God can really change a person’s actions as well as a person’s mind as long as one is willing to allow Him to do so. I have learned that there is no such thing as finding your soul mate. Soul mates are created as two people invest in and sacrifice for each other. I have learned that often it is the little things done and said over time that can make or break a marriage. I have learned that forgiveness is a must.
I end with a story that Dave read in the book that accompanied Pastor James’ sermon series. The story is titled “The Hole in the Road”. Dave read this at the renewing of our vows ceremony. He believes it portrays his anger problem perfectly…he didn’t know he had a problem, and once he was made aware of it, it took a few tries to avoid the hole in his road…
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I do not see the hole. I fall in the hole. It is very deep, and at the bottom where I lay broken, it is dark and cold. I can’t get out.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I see the hole as I am walking down the road. I fall down the hole. Its familiar and quite cosy. I can’t get out.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I see the hole as I am walking down the road. I fall down the hole. I want to get out.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I see the hole as I am walking down the road. I dread falling down the hole. I fall down the hole. And I look up and decide to get out.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I see the hole as I walk down the road. I think, “oh, ha ha, no, no, I’m not falling for that again!”. I fall down the hole. I start climbing out.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I see the hole as I walk down the road. I try not to, but I fall in the hole again. I get back out straight away.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I see the hole as I walk down the road. My foot slides and I fall in the hole again, but I do not hit the bottom. I cling on to the side and get out of the hole.
I walk down the road. There is a hole in the road. I step over the hole. I do not fall into the hole.
I walk down a different road.