The first was that of my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. They rented a home on our family's favorite beach, Edisto Island, SC. All of my siblings and the grandchildren were present.
We spent time playing in the sand and the water, building sand castles and catching sharks. It was the first time my children had seen the ocean.
It was pretty much magical. It took me back to my own childhood and the many fun times my parents created for us. Their marriage wasn't with out flaws but they showed us love and mirrored God to us in their daily lives.
Secondly Lowell and I got to spend a few days in Charleston which is where we went on our honeymoon almost 17 years ago. Our honeymoon was shortened due to me getting a horrid case of sun poisoning where I swelled up like a balloon and turned various shades of purple and pink plus I was incredibly nauseated and fevered. We left after only a day or two saying we would come back again in a few years and do a more thorough tour of the town. When the decision was made to head to Edisto we jumped on the chance to send the children home with my parents so we could indeed go back.
We spent the time touring the old town, visiting a plantation and of course going back to the one place we did get to on our honey moon ~ Patriot's Point and the USS Yorktown. Plus we stayed at a weird B & B with a bossy European hostess (but that's a whole other story)
Honeymoon ~ June 1997
We decided to skip the big bucks and take a selfie on this trip
2nd honeymoon ~ May 2014
Life has been interesting these last almost 2 decades. We had some great times, very happy times. We had some sad and painful times too. Since we had so many years of infertility we were able to do some traveling and even lived for a period of time in the beautiful sunny tropical Haiti. As is probably the truth for many marriages we learned a lot of things about each other that were awesome and then we learned some that were anything but awesome. But God was and continues to be faithful even in the midst of pain and trial just as we see and feel Him in the midst of joyful life experiences.
If you were to ask me what have been some of the biggest learning experiences of my life as a married woman (which will sooner rather then later be almost half my life) it would boil down to a few basic thoughts.
#1. Our marriage's life story has to be OURS, not our parent's or our friend's or the marriage expert's down the street. While we can learn from those before and around us, we are unique and specially created and perfectly designed for the person God put us with. Instead of comparing and competing we must look for the wonderfuls in us and live the moments to the fullest.
One of those moments...flying over the Charleston Harbor ~ Yes I was scared
I would fall out but the "wonderfulness factor" of the moment was greater then my fear
#2. Don't allow ANYTHING to drive a wedge. One of the most painful periods of our marriage was our 11 month separation. We had just experienced tremendous financial loss that took our home, our car, our dignity and almost took our marriage. As they say hindsight is always 20/20 and I can see now that contrary to how I felt then, I did carry equal blame for the split. I took the pain I felt from a huge life event (told earlier in this blog-The Value of Women in the Church)
and closed my heart to my man, allowing the wedge to be driven deeper. Although Lowell had some pretty huge issues too, I had choices. As do we all.
#3. Other's marriages may not always be how they appear. If we are honest, real and transparent we will indeed see that all of us face struggles as well as joy. I know I am much more perceptive of pain in others and their marriages then I was before I experienced my own deep pain. We also learned first hand how important it is to rally support for marriages in pain instead of choosing sides with one person over the other. During our separation many well meaning people chose one of us over the other to "stand with"/"support". The pain from that fact still surfaces in random ways sometimes.
For me, because I was considered to be the rebellious and erring one in the community we currently reside in, I still face that attitude and spirit from time to time and have to admit it still causes pain. It doesn't matter here that I "left" my marriage for a season (temporary being the goal!) of healing on the recommendation of a Christian counselor I was seeing. Many promises were made to get me to "come back". Sadly many of those were never kept.
Before our separation many considered our marriage to be great/role model material and it was, but we had struggles too and when the fire came we needed loving support not judgement and criticism. Marriage is SO worth fighting for and so much of the time the things we see are not how things really are and what is really needed is true compassion and care and loads of prayer.
#4. Laugh More ~ One of the things that has been instrumental in the healing process of our marriage is realizing that life is too short to be grumpy. Sometimes when I find myself all uptight and stressed out, I set out to find things to laugh about. There is a reason why Proverbs says a cheerful heart is good medicine.
I don't have specific ideas of how our legacy will play out in the lives of our children but if there is one thing I want them to know and remember above all is that God perfectly designed and hand picked our family and their parent's marriage and that He is indeed perfection in a broken and im-perfect world.
**thanks much to our own Evonda Braswell for the photos!
My Love & I at the Mangolia Plantation (a must visit place!)