Friday, August 22, 2014

Marriage Is So Much More Than Vows

I just love weddings. I think they are beautiful, emotional, magical, and I love that they are based on love! Who doesn't love love?

We went to a wedding last month in New Mexico for one of Daniel's old college friends. It was breathtaking, with the Organ Mountains in the background and the bride in her gorgeous off-shoulder gown, and the way they couldn't stop smiling or whispering to each other. I hadn't even met her yet, and I was in tears. Surprised? Probably not. My sister is a wedding photographer, and I'm not sure how she doesn't cry EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Their vows were personalized for the most part, but they did do some of the typical lines, too. As I sat there listening to them, I couldn't help but think "this looks sound easy. It sounds so easy". And all I could picture was their life filled with blissful, happy moments. But anyone who has been married more than say, a week, knows how unrealistic and difficult vows can be. I am not being a pessimist here, or discounting vows for what they are, I'm just exposing the truth in them and our responsibility moving forward from the wedding day.

I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. 

Here is a generic example of wedding vows. It's so easy to keep these promises on your honeymoon, when you excitedly buy your first house, welcome your first child, go on vacations, and are not financially stressed. Life is GOOD. But when the hard times hit, and you think "what in the world was I thinking when I got married?", that's when the vows count.

This morning I watched my husband teach our almost two-year-old how to make a pinky promise. The promise was that she would stay in her stroller while they took a walk. YEAH RIGHT. It's so easy to make promises! Although cute, this reminded me how empty our promises can be and how many times we are just going through the motions.

We we got married, I had these great images in my head of my husband sick on the couch and me right next to him rubbing his feet, feeding him chicken noodle soup, and watching his fever drop from my kisses. Cheesy, but I'm not joking! This was my expectation! It didn't take long to discover that these were not really the moments that the vows were describing. It was more like these moments: When your wife comes home and says she quit her job. When you're 6 months pregnant in the emergency room at 10pm because your husband broke his nose. When a fight seems so big that it might be a "deal-breaker". When your husband loses his job. When your wife labors for 4 days and there is nothing you can do to help. When you're both exhausted and someone has to get up with the baby. When your spouse makes a decision that you think is bad and you choose to follow anyway. When you don't feel love. When friends and family die. When you end up in the hospital and the finances and support are strained. 

These are just the examples of things that we have gone through in our 5 1/2 years of marriage; I can't imagine what this list will look like in another 50 years! And although I may not know all of you, I do know some things that some of you have endured. Being unable to have a baby. Having a baby with a heart defect. Infidelity. Financially unstable. Depression. Growing apart. Addiction. Terminal Illness. Am I right?

My husband has never really liked weddings, and this is the reason why. He feels that the promises are nice, but not always realistic. Instead, he loves celebrating couples that have made it to 20, 30, 50 years of marriage and are still together. THOSE people truly lived out their vows and endured. I used to think he was just being a downer, but now I see and understand his point. It is exciting to celebrate two people who have decided to come together and promise themselves to each other for the rest of their lives, but it is even more exciting to celebrate those who have actually done it! 

We are called to love our spouse unconditionally, and though many of us strive to do this with good intentions, it is important to realize that it's actually impossible. There was only one person who was EVER able to love unconditionally, and we are only able to love unconditionally if we allow Him to love our spouse THROUGH us. Don't strive to be more, strive to be less so He can be more for you.

As we sort through what may be some difficult days for our marriage and family as I endure surgery and recovery, I believe that our vows will hold strong and it will be one more thing that we can add to our list as "DONE". Marriage is so much more than vows, it is choosing to daily live out those vows. But please, don't try to do it alone because our God has created us to NEED HIM in these moments. To rest in Him. To trust Him. To love our spouse unconditionally through Him.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Post-op Update: What We Need the Most

I had pelvic surgery 10 days ago. 10 long days ago. It seems so recent, but yet so far away. Sometimes I just sit here (just kidding, lay here) and think "I can't believe I actually did it! I can't believe it's over!". It's a good feeling because it gives me a sense that I have *hopefully* endured the worst of it, and that recovery will be oh so sweet.

I wanted to write a little update because I have had many friends contact me to see how things went, how I'm feeling, and what the doctor said. So here I am, sitting her on a boppy pillow late at night (okay, I can sit a LITTLE bit), because apparently when you expel no energy during the day, it can cause ridiculous insomnia!

On Monday August 4th, we arrived at the hospital and began the check-in process complete with getting hooked up to IVs, answering questions, and discussing surgery. I was nervous, but I was also so weak and exhausted from the colon cleanse I had to complete the day before, that I was just happy to lay down with my eyes closed while they prepped me. I felt strangely peaceful. I credited it to being so sick the day before and the fasting I had done. But now that I look back, I also know that I was covered in prayer, and THAT is probably the real reason I felt the way that I did. We spoke with the nurses, the surgeon, and the anesthesiologist. When it was time, the anesthesiologist gave me a little medication to put me out as I was saying goodbye to my husband and leaving the room. I don't remember anything else. My husband says I smiled and shook my head saying "wow, my head feels dizzy" and I was asleep before he could say goodbye. Lightweight over here. Then I woke up and heard nurses around me and barely opened my eyes, asking for my husband. They told me I could see him soon, but I couldn't keep my eyes open.

The surgery took about 90 minutes, shorter than expected, and it took me another 90 minutes to come out of the anesthesia and get into a room. The surgeon came to my husband smiling saying that surgery had gone really well. She found a few more things that she repaired, but she reported that my anatomy was now correct, and any additional surgeries would not be nearly as invasive or difficult. What a relief to hear! The rest of the evening and the night was relatively uneventful. Nurses came in every few hours to check my vitals and give me pain meds. Someone changed the ice pack between my legs. I drifted in and out of sleep as I fought the pain and discomfort.

The next morning I seemed to be doing well and I was able to eat a little bit- rice pudding and oatmeal was about all I wanted. The surgeon came in, checked me, removed a few things and said that I could go home when I felt ready. I was definitely uncomfortable in the hospital bed and with the IV, but I had no idea how I would make it at home. My husband and I started a movie and halfway through a nurse came in to give us discharge paperwork and said that she was getting a wheelchair for me. Somehow I made it into the car and through the drive home.

The next week was filled with lots of pain, very little movement, constipation, diarrhea, plenty of pain meds, nausea, very little food, constant ice, a little discouragement and lots of missing my baby. It was a very rough week, and I think I've already blocked much of it out. My husband (bless his sweet soul!) was my nurse and tended to me constantly through the nights while a friend came and "babysat" me during the day while he worked. I couldn't be left alone. The baby was with my mom and visited a few times, and I have never seen her so excited to see me! It felt good.

A friend set up a Food Tidings schedule for us and the meals began rolling in. Thank goodness! I also had a few visitors, texts, phone calls, and Facebook messages. Some friends sent flowers, which were a nice adornment on my pill bottle-covered night stand. Some brought gifts, ever for Piper! There is nothing better than watching your toddler unwrap a sheet of stickers saying "" over and over.

People had not forgotten about us. In fact, they CARED. And a lot. I've always felt loved by our friends and family, and I feel like we work hard to maintain good relationships and always love below the surface. But in the last two weeks, we have really been loved on. I have discovered through this process that this seems to be a basic human need that we are not always  good at fulfilling.


There is something so comforting about seeing a meal schedule all filled up with people who love us and want to serve us. Waking up to a friend (or my mom!) on my couch waiting for the baby to wake so I don't have to care for her. Having someone constantly willing to bring me food, medicine, or ice. People dropping off snacks and gifts. Phone calls asking to come watch a movie with me and just sit together. Friends picking up our daughter to spoil her for the evening with ice cream, toys, and fun, and returning her bathed and ready for bed. My heart feels like it could burst with gratitude and love for these people. I can't believe how fantastic this recovery is going, and it's because of all of them. My desire to fall into a depression or pity party cannot exist, because someone is always there to care. 

So, back to day 10. I saw the surgeon today and she reassured me that I am healing well and doing all of the right things. I am slowly weaning off of my pain meds and taking really good care of myself to ensure proper healing, and taking all of the advice to rest, nap, and just give myself time. We all need time to heal. I went on my first outing yesterday and tired quickly, but I seemed to bounce back and had energy and spent the evening with friends resting and walking a bit. Today has been even better, besides the part where I was walking slower than the old person with the walker at the doctor's office. I definitely got some looks. But I have had manageable pain, plenty of energy, and good friends who will sit around with me. And maybe the surgeon's report was a little bit of a placebo effect, but I'll take it! I was even able to whip up a batch of homemade brownies, because sometimes that's just what you need at 9pm. 

So while the road is long and trying, I am already seeing that there will be an end, and everyday I am one day closer to full healing and being symptom-free! I am still unable to sit through church services, stand for long periods, drive, hold the baby, lift anything, sit normally, go without medicine completely, and sleep apparently, but that will all come.

I really just want to stress the importance of having good friends and people who care about you. It is times like these in our lives when the work we've put into relationships pays off. Daniel and I are both sure that we could not have done this without the help that we've had. If you don't have good friends, don't sit around and sulk, GO FIND THEM. It takes work, but it's so sweet and humbling when you have people willing to care for you because you also care for them. There is nothing like it. This is also why we should share our problems and trials, because we need each other!

And for every one of you who has been involved in this recovery, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I have seen every face, read every text, heard every message. You have comforted my heart. When your time of trial comes, I will be there. This is what life is all about. We need each other.

Goodnight friends.