The beginning of the beginning.

10 years ago today, I made a decision that changed the course of the life of our family forever.

I decided to leave my husband.

And the crazy thing is, if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It took the complete breakdown of our marriage for us to learn just what it means to love someone, to learn what marriage is really all about, and for us each to find out who we are as individuals.

If we hadn’t gone through the breaking, the threshing, the refining, we wouldn’t have been ready for the rebuilding.  We wouldn’t have been ready or available for new foundations to be laid, for the construction of our new relationship to be built out of hope and faith and love.

Now, just to clarify, I am not an advocate of divorce.  I believe in fighting for a marriage with every ounce of your being, even when it feels like you’re being turned inside out and dragged along the ground, if that’s what it takes to save what you vowed and declared you would commit to forever, that day it all began for you and your spouse.

I believe that as a society, we give up on marriage too easily – we give up when it gets too hard, when it doesn’t feel like we think it should, when we feel like we’re not getting what we deserve, when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, when we’re wounded and hurt and feeling like our spouse isn’t living up to our expectations.  And we collectively give each other permission to do the same.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate is as high as it is, because all of us feel like that in every relationship we have, not just the ones with our spouses – family, friends, work colleagues, but our spouses are the only ones we can legally dissolve a relationship with.

When we say ‘I do’, they’re not just two little words.  They are a seal on a contract that binds us together for life – not just for today, and tomorrow, and maybe in ten years time, but forever.

That’s why I left my husband.  For all the reasons above, and more.  There was no specific ‘incident’, or ‘problem’ as such, just a collection of wounds and hurts and bitterness accumulated over time, each of us constantly wishing the other would change, but not realising that it was ourselves that had to change.

The moment of truth came quietly – it was the day before our youngest child’s first birthday, and we got into a fight over the proposed birthday celebration.  As it always did, the argument turned to ‘you always, you never, I wish you would….’ etc, etc, etc – an argument I could have scripted, we had had it so many times.  But that time, something shifted, and in a moment of stunning clarity, the thought came – ‘I can’t change him’.

I was never going to be able to make him change into who I thought I wanted him to be.

But I couldn’t keep living the way we were, none of us could.

So a couple of weeks later, I left.

And it was the beginning of who we were always meant to be.

It took a long haul through court, a divorce, years of healing before we could speak to each other again, and more years of learning to communicate and trust, for us to rebuild our relationship as co-parents and eventually as friends.  We were laying the foundations of our new relationship, or more to the point, God was laying anew the foundations of the relationship He has always planned for us to have.

And now here we are.

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Living a real-life mosaic, building something beautiful out of the broken pieces of our lives.

10 years later, what feels like a lifetime wiser and with a whole lot of life lessons under our belts , we are both very different people to who we were when we really didn’t understand what marriage what supposed to be.

That it’s putting someone before yourself every. single. day.

That it’s knowing that the whole deal is messy and complicated and frustrating, and that there are going to be times we just don’t like being where we have to be.

That it’s working out what someone needs and doing what we can to give it to them.

That’s it’s simply doing things we don’t feel like doing.

That it’s beautiful, and wondrous, and amazing that two people can make the choice to keep turning up day after day and facing life together.

That in committing to for better or worse, there’s always someone to walk through the pain and difficulties of life with.

That it is always, always worth it.

We are building our relationship based on what we’ve learned through our experience, and what we want our marriage to be.  It looks very different now to what it did so many years ago, and I thank-God every day for that.

10 years ago, as a young mum with 3 little kids and my world falling down around me, I had no idea what the future held in store.    Thankfully, my God did, and because He is in the business of making all things new, we now get to live out the story written for us.

We’re living proof that there are always new beginnings, sometimes it just takes getting through the endings to see what they are.

And it is always, always worth it.

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Day 5: Let me tell you a story

All the words are whirling around in my head, and I’m having trouble catching them and forming them into something that will tell the story.

My story.

The story that God has gifted me with, one that I could never have written, one that has taught me real love.

I’ve been struggling to articulate how Paul’s words – God’s words – to the Corinthians have come to show me the true meaning of love, and I’ve realised it’s because when I try to explain things, I generally use an example, a lived experience, a story.  I tell stories to try and explain life, it’s what I do.  I’m learning that it’s how God has made me.  To be a storyteller.

We all have stories, we all have a voice, and I love Jeff Goins’ words regarding how we all need to tell our stories:

Stories are written to be shared, and it is our responsibility to retell those that we witness — not only for our own sake, but for the benefit of others. Stories change people. They shape entire cultures.

I have believed this for as long as I can remember, and I encourage everyone I know to tell what has shaped their lives, encouraged them to believe that their story is worth telling.  But I haven’t practised what I’ve been preaching, not entirely, and it’s been because of fear.  Fear that my story isn’t important enough, interesting enough, that it’s not worth telling because it’s already been told (by someone who did it better), that I won’t tell it well enough, and perhaps more than anything, that once I write the words, it’s out there, and I can’t take it back.

Fear.  It’s a killer.  Well, it would be if we didn’t love, because there is no fear in love, and perfect love – God’s love – drives out fear.  So with that in mind, I’m going to tell you my story, and how it made real the words of love for me in my life.  If you were to pick up a book and read the blurb on the back, curious about what’s inside, this is what you might read:

Once upon a time, there was a girl.  And a boy (I’m sure you already know where this is going…).

High-school sweethearts, they thought they knew what love was, and just assumed that it would last forever.

But it didn’t.  Not how they thought it would, anyway.

Life just happened, as it does, and eventually, the walls fell down, and everything fell apart, ending in the pain of divorce.  3 kids, a marriage, a house, dreams and hope – all wounded and terribly broken by, well, two people who didn’t know how to really love one another.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Because the love they thought would last forever?  It did. They discovered that real love never dies, it doesn’t give up, it keeps going to the end.

This is the story of loss and restoration, of renovated hearts and lives, and how love always, always wins.