Kevin and I in 2001, a few months before becoming engaged.
Kevin and I are celebrating ten years of marriage later this month. Ten years!
I've been thinking about how much has changed since we wed on that warm June day in 2002, and how much has remained the same. I'm remembering how young we were (he was 21, and I 20), and what limited life experience we had.
My husband loves to tell the story of how he knew he wanted to marry me roughly two weeks after we began spending time together. I more or less felt the same. Our relationship was in many ways more like a courtship, commencing with a discussion more closely resembling a business meeting than a romantic prelude.
And, that was by design. And it may sound old-fashioned and not very fun, but it was fun, and worked out well if I do say so myself. Neither of us had any interest in dating for the sake of dating; instead, Kevin wanted to get to know me with the express purpose of discerning if we should marry. I appreciated and embraced this perspective. I still do, in fact, in part because it allowed for a lot of discussion about future goals and personal ideals related to the married life.
While we were not yet Catholic (thus not understanding marriage as a Sacrament), we believed the union of man and wife was serious business, and that marriage is forever--divorce would never be on the table, not ever.
Even though we had no idea about the Catholic Church's teachings on openness to life and generosity in marriage, we did feel strongly that no one should get married--period--unless they'd be happy and excited to welcome a new little soul nine months later, because that is simply part of marriage. (Natural law apparently always resonated with us.)
We discussed how, once we had children, I would stay home full-time to raise them. We also kind of assumed we'd have two to four kids (are you laughing? I am!) and would start a family once I graduated from college. (Are you laughing? I am!)
It should come as no surprise to anyone then that we were not only young but filled-to-the-brim with ideals and dreams as we planned our wedding. We both had high hopes for marriage and believed God was in it. Meanwhile, we were the best of friends, and looked forward to spending the rest of our lives together.
And, you know what? Making the decision to get married to Kevin remains one of the best decisions I've ever made. Has it always been easy? No. Has it always gone the way I'd expected? No.
Through our semi-official dating/courtship/business proposition discernment process, I came to a very important and objective conclusion: Kevin would make a good husband and a good father. I knew he was a good friend. He loved Jesus and loved others and respected women. We shared many of the same interests and values and we expected that we'd make good life-partners.
And, I can tell you that all of this has proved to be true. Ten years in and I am certain that I could not have chosen a better man to lead our family, or to spend my life with.
And as I look back on all of our pre-wedding preparations, I truly believe our excitement was in large part due to the fact that we believed we were making a good choice. There were no doubts, not even fleeting ones, that we were on the brink of a youthfully foolish mistake. We had the same goals in life, the same vision for family, and the unwavering expectation that God would make something really beautiful out of our strengths and flaws as we grew and moved through life together.
And, He has.
When He led us to stop using contraception.
When we gave birth to chubby baby girls.
When we lost precious babies to miscarriage.
When we brought home vulnerable and hurting children from a far-off country--twice.
When we sat in tense waiting rooms as our fragile daughters received life-saving heart surgeries.
When we wrestled with theology.
When we were received into the Catholic Church.
Amidst good times and bad, during seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow, God has worked grace and holiness and mercy in our marriage, and in our family. I am incredibly humbled by the life He's given me, in large part because I think while we definitely had some things right ten years ago, we were also missing some of the connecting pieces. As I mentioned earlier, we didn't have a sacramental understanding of marriage, we didn't know the word "vocation" in this context, we were using birth control, we didn't have the Eucharist or the Sacrament of Reconciliation and we certainly didn't have a faith community upholding these things either.
So nearly ten years in, I'm kind of astounded by the fact that, while things have not always (usually?) gone as we'd expected, there is actually so.much.more. to this marriage thing than I could have imagined.