Back when we were brand new my Love took me to the Mother Cabrini Shrine* outside of Denver Colorado. We didn’t realize it was closed that day, so we were just going to use the path. There was a large hill up to the Shrine, and it was bitter cold with icy snow crystals spinning and wind pressing down on us- and we didn’t even make it up there. We tried twice, but it was too cold.

So we ran back to the van. The leather seats had a small patch of sunlight warming it so we rested our faces next to each other, finding warmth from that little bit of sunshine. I was 17, he was 21, and we had our entire lives up in the air. He was going to a priest maybe. I was in love with a boy who wanted to be a priest maybe. But in that moment nothing mattered. Just our faces on the warm leather. Smiling goofy smiles, feeling stuffed with happiness.

All these years and adventures later this is still one of my favorite memories. And it speaks volumes about who we are together.

On that day in late November things didn’t go as planned. But we made the most of it, together.

Things haven’t always went as planned in our little lives.

Because part of being in a real relationship is dealing with the real life issues of marriage and family. The boy I married used to be very passive aggressive. The girl he married used to have a vicious tongue. We both could say things that hurt the other, intentionally. We had to work through so much- and it wasn’t easy. But neither of us thought of walking away- because we prayed. A lot. And learned to forgive. A lot. And ask for forgiveness. A lot.

I’d pray as my tears would trickle down the steering wheel during that first year of marriage, when my vows weren’t as beautiful anymore…because our house had burned down, and we only have $10 for groceries, and I was pretty sure I was pregnant. My vows in that moment felt like cement and the weight of them scared me and I prayed. Desperately.

I prayed because I knew I needed to stay. I knew I loved him, that I had never really loved anyone else with such intensity…even though I was so angry I could taste bitter awful thoughts.

And I know he did too. I knew it when he went to confession during his lunch break. I knew it when he came home and would hug me, as if it was the first and last time he would ever hold me in his arms again- with such passion that I knew all he’d wanted to do was get in the car…and drive far far away.

And then he’d ask if we could pray together.

We stayed. Because we prayed. I know if either of us stopped that would have been it.

The End.

Of what is amazing, and passionate, and beautiful, and hard and ours.

As the years have passed things haven’t always went as planned… but just as long as we prayed, we knew we’d be okay.
Sometimes it was one of us more than the other. Praying.

When his friends have been killed, I prayed more, as he grieved. When work has overwhelmed him- and he’s seen hatred in the eyes of people he’s helping, I have prayed for hope for him and purpose.

He has prayed for me, when exhaustion and heartache broke me. When I was a shell of who he married, hollowed eyes and empty. He would tell me when we were going to church and wait and pray until I came out. He held me as I cried and prayed over me as I thought I may never be myself again, because I didn’t know that I could stay here.

We prayed together over each of our kids, including Mary as we held her body…knowing she wasn’t really there but desperate to wake her up.

We have had so many intense beautiful
moments of prayer together, when life hasn’t went according to plan.

Even the small moments…when one of us has had a nightmare or one of our kids climbs in the bed, crying tears of sleepy fear- we pray together and with them.

I think of all the marriages where there is abuse and unfaithfulness. Those are the types of sins that twist and distort vows. Those are the things that I understand people walking away, running away from. For the sake of their kids, and their lives.

My marriage doesn’t have that horror. I said vows to someone who loves me and honors me…but still, it is not easy. But they were said.

My vows were said in front of our friends and family…and our God.

We are at the age where friends are splitting up, relationships are irreconcilably fractured, and we daily are needing to safe guard this little life we have worked so hard on together. Because we are not perfect. Days are hard, and cruel, and we are both pulled in a million different directions in a world that has told us- statistically we should fail.

So we love, and choose to love, especially when it’s not easy.

Because things will never go as planned…

We aren’t debt free like we wanted to be.

We wish we could have another baby, or two, but we haven’t.

I’m not organized. And he can’t find his keys.

I’m a miserable cold person.

He is grumpy when he’s hungry.

I have given up helping him back the trailer into its space for Lent…and perhaps eternity.

I’m still not the girl he fell in love with. But I’m braver than she was.

I have loved him longer than I have ever loved anyone. I still long for him.

And I will never give up.

On him. On myself. On my kids. On us.

On the days that are good I will gorge myself with happiness and let each blessing fill me to the brim, so that on the hard days, the real days, the love won’t be too far to find.

I will find that patch of sunlight and I will rest my face against it…making most of my time with him- here, with the rest of our lives up in the air.

*google Mother Cabrini. She rocks. Our goddaughter is named after her. 🙂