Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Warning: Long, vulnerable, scary (for me) post ahead!

Justin and I are coming up on our 5 year anniversary. For some reason, as we come up on 5 years of marriage, I have been thinking a lot lately about our journey together so far - the ups, the downs, and how incredible our God is. This post is going to be super honest and vulnerable, but I feel like it's something I need to write.

Justin and I dated in high school (I was a junior, he was a senior). We didn't go to the same high school, but we did go to the same church. We weren't really "friends", but we were in the same small group at youth and flirted quite a bit -- kicked each other under the table, made googly eyes, you know ;) The summer before my junior year we went on a mission trip with our youth group to Montana. I honestly can still remember the day we were signing up and he asked me if I was going. I told him yes and he said he was going also. I remember my heart going all aflutter and thinking this was going to be the best mission trip ever. My priorities were obviously in line!

We went on the mission trip and had so much fun together! I will admit that he had a girlfriend back home, but neither of us really seemed to care (bad, I know). We spent tons of time together: talking, playing games, working, laughing. Everyone on the trip knew we liked each other - it was obvious. When we got back he broke up with his girlfriend and we were "together" the next day.
Since we lived in separate towns we mainly only saw each other on the weekends. We talked online into the wee hours of the night and sometimes talked on the phone.

Our relationship hit a roadblock when he kissed another girl at his school. I was devastated and he, in true high school boy fashion, could have really cared less that he hurt me so badly. About 3 months later, in true high school relationship fashion, we were back together.

Here's where my reflection has become one of thanking God for his amazing Grace, Mercy, and Love. Our relationship after we got back together was incredibly unhealthy. We fought a lot. I was super insecure because he "cheated" on me, he was into drinking and just being a typical high school boy.

We became sexually active that summer.

The implications of that choice still affect me occasionally today. Oh, how I wish I had listened to the adults that loved me and really understood (or cared about) what they were trying to tell me.

After that summer Justin went away to college. We continued to fight all the time. I was so mad at us for not living how we were suppose to, bitter at him for "talking me into it", upset that he was away at college and I only saw him occasionally, I constantly thought he was cheating on me. I was so painfully insecure and unsure of who I really was. We most often fought because I felt like he wasn't the Christian he was suppose to be. Honestly, at that time, I don't think he was ready or even cared and I wish now that I would have known it was never my place to try to make him into something he wasn't or that I was strong enough, secure enough in myself to break it off with him.

When I went off to college (a different college than Justin about 3 hours away), the vicious cycle continued. More arguing, more guilt, more name slinging.

I would go to church every week and "talk the talk", but in the back of my mind I always had the guilt and pain of knowing I was totally not "walking the walk". All my friends were super-Christians and I had no one to talk to (or that's how I felt). It was a really really hard time in my life. I would go back and forth about breaking up with him or staying together. Again, I was just too insecure, too emotionally (and physically) invested and I couldn't walk away.

Please know that Justin was never this "evil" being that it may sound like. In fact, he was much more patient, loving and kind to me than I ever was to him. I would scream and yell and he would take all of it and still love me (or what we thought was love) and still want to date me.

Finally I just decided that maybe if we got married things would get better. We could have sex without the guilt, I would be with him all the time rather than having to commute every other weekend, and we would *really* love each other. We talked about marriage a lot and decided we were ready.

Justin proposed to me on Christmas Eve 2004. It was the sweetest, cutest thing in the world. All our family was there. It was perfect. I was so excited to be married, so ready to finally be in the same town, and ready to spend my life with him as his wife. Wedding planning was so fun for me.

I will be honest though, in the back of my mind I continued to wonder if getting married to Justin was right. Even walking down the aisle I had doubts in my mind. I was super excited to be married, but I was also scared we may be making a big mistake.

Our first 2 years of marriage were *really* hard. Things happened that put us into counseling and almost caused me to walk away. We were so distant and bitter with each other. I would be mad because he wasn't the super-Christian-husband he was suppose to be and he would be mad because all I did was scream and yell and put him down all the time. It was just a continuation of our dating life except now we lived in the same house. When I finally hit a breaking point and wanted out, I was pregnant with Chloe. Had I not been pregnant, I'm not sure we would still be married. Chloe saved me from walking out the door, counseling saved our marriage.

(side note: this picture totally makes me laugh because it was right after Chloe was born. I was at my fattest and Justin was at his skinniest. lol!)

When we were able to sit in the counseling office and spill it all is when we finally had a breakthrough and could start truly loving each other. I was able to realize that Justin's relationship with God was between Justin and God. I could nag and whine and yell all I wanted, but that wasn't going to change Justin's heart. All I could do as a wife was to love and support him. As a Christian I could continue to try and live the way God wanted and let that be what reflected Christ to Justin (rather than my hateful words).

The interesting thing is that through all of this, I think Justin has truly been a better Christian than I ever have. He is so patient and loving. He doesn't yell or put me down. He really, truly loves me and shows me that constantly. He speaks encouragement into me and supports anything I ever want to do. Although he didn't read his bible as much I thought he should (this was a MAJOR fight), I think he really grasped what Jesus is all about far before I really did.

A little over a year ago we began going to Desperation Church. Through the sermons there, the people, the authenticity, the worship music, the love, Justin and I have grown leaps and bounds in our walk with the Lord and our walk together.

Justin's heart astounds me more and more every day. He is so loving and kind. His whole outlook on life has completely changed in the past couple of years. He's accepting of others where in the past he wouldn't have been. He's open to allowing God to make decisions in our life that might be painful or weird. He loves and wants to serve others. God has worked amazing things in his heart and in his life.

After 5 years, I can honestly, 100% say that I am so honored to be Justin's wife. I don't know if we were "suppose" to get married or not, but God has worked an incredible miracle in our lives and in our marriage. I love Justin more now than I ever thought possible. I adore being his wife and sharing this life with him. I often like him a lot more than I even like myself. It's funny, at the beginning of our marriage I was so bitter and angry that he wasn't the spiritual leader in our house and now I can't imagine wanting to "follow" anyone else. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this because God has been so good to us. His grace, mercy, and love are so evident in my marriage.

I can't even explain how thankful I am to our Lord and how much I truly believe that He is working in our lives if we will just let Him. My marriage is a true testament to God's good purposes for our lives.


Kim said...

Amen! Amen! and Amen!
I love you and am so incredibly proud of you both!
(I share your tears!)

MissMolly said...

Wow - thank you for making yourself vulnerable and sharing! I'm sure all of those difficult times in the past will make the future even better. Now that you guys are adults and are more mature, you have a different level of respect for yourselves and for one another. Life is good and you are blessed to have each other and beautiful daughter. You rock :)

Laura said...

Love the honesty glad to know that we all fight through this thing called marriage! the good and the bad!

The Worley's said...

Thanks Ash for your honesty and vulnerability to write all of this. It was really a blessing to read. As I was reading, I kept thinking about how cool it has been to be able to see you guys grow and change from the very beginning...which seems like ages ago :) I love you guys so much! God is go good!

Andrea Ferrell said...

this is really beautifully written, and awesome just to hear from your heart. i love that you and justin have grown so much, it is honestly an inspiration to me. :) i love you.

Nick, Rachel, and Addy said...

Great post! Happy 5th Anniversary and congratulations on growing so much as a couple!

Corey said...

That is a really amazing story, and I am very moved by it.

I was just wondering if Justin had to get his parents' permission to get married since he looks about TWELVE in those pictures! ;-)


Jo Ann said...

Ashleigh I love reading about your journey in your love for Justin !!
True love is so worth the hard times and in the end LOVE abounds !!
God bless you both with MANY "Happily Ever After" years.
Grandma and Grandma ><> AKA Grandpa and BATEMAN :-)