I was only 19 when we wed. Heath was a whopping 21. We stood there on the stage of our church and made promises we had no idea how to keep, nor what the cost would be to keep them. We said "I do", and could only see how that affected our here and now. We were ready to conquer the world, because together, we could do anything.
Fast forward over the years, and trust me, they do go by at lightening speed, and we have learned a few lessons. See, we knew things were not going to be easy. We knew times would be good and times would be hard. There would be ups and downs. We knew all that in our heads. Life had already shown us that. We just didn't know it in our hearts how we would be stretched, intertwined, hurt, broken, and brought together. I'll never forget our first fight. Scared me to death. Heath walked out, and left me in our apartment alone. I just knew I had blown it only a few weeks into our marriage. There was so much to learn. Those first few years were filled with multiple address changes, family moving in with us, us moving in with family, job changes, poor financial choices, and the births of babies. Lots of finding our way. We weathered the ups with the downs fairly well.
But as life goes on, it just seems to get more complicated. Much like the ever growing clutter and stuff that tends to collect in our homes, our lives were collecting "stuff" and it was getting harder to wade through. The mountains were getting bigger. Which meant that the good times were even sweeter, with abundant happiness. But the flip side meant that the valleys were getting deeper, darker, full of heartache.
We now have nine children. With the tenth child expected to be born in February. And life has never been harder. And just as we have welcomed life to this world, we have watched it leave. Have said hard good-byes. We are struggling more now than ever. Most days, I feel like I'm drowning. It wasn't supposed to be this hard. Those young newlyweds? They just knew that by the time they were nearly 40, they would have "arrived". With success clearly written all over their lives. It's not happened that way. We are basically starting over.
And here's the deal. I'm not that young, naïve girl anymore that worried over little things. I have grown up. MUCH. I have a history, a story. And I can tell you this.
If I could go back, do it all over again, I would still choose to say "I DO".
In fact, I say I do every morning. I get up everyday and choose to love my husband. I say "I Do" to the good times and bad times. Marriage is not a life full of that mushy, giggly love. Full of sunlight, fluffy goodness, and smooth roads. It gets ugly. You get dirty in the process. Storms come, and leave their mark. What I have learned is that you can't hang all your hopes on the fairytale. The best parts of marriage are what come from the ashes. I made a promise eighteen years ago, and since I better understand what that promise truly was asking of me, I can better fulfill said promise. Would I change anything? Do something different? I can honestly say no. From our mistakes, we are growing. We have learned to love each other more than we ever could have imagined. We also have learned that our idea of success has changed. Sure, it would be nice to have a little more financial success. But we are STILL married, eighteen years later, and there isn't any doubt this will be the way it is for our life times. And we are able to conquer anything, still, because we have each other. We have learned to CHOOSE. And we choose each other. We may make the wrong choices in many aspects of our life, but this is the one thing I know we will always choose. We choose each other, our marriage, our life built together. It's not always pretty, and there may be days we don't like it, but we haven't let feelings get in the way. So to my husband I say, "I love you. It has always been you, and always will be you. I can no longer see where I end and you start. You are forever my choice, I still do."