Joseph decided that since we were engaged now, we needed to get real jobs to save up for our wedding in 6 months. We were going to be wed almost a year to the day of our first date on Valentine’s. Some may call that too fast, but we called it not wasting time and getting started ASAP on our life together. When you know, you just know.
We started writing each other love notes and leaving them for the other to find early on in our relationship. I would buy those sappy cards from the store that said everything I was feeling. Joe would mostly write notes on sticky pads and leave them where I could find them if he was at my apartment. I wrote him poems too. He was my muse. I saved every one of our notes. We would sit on the couch watching a movie and his head would be in my lap. My mama taught me by example how to give an amazing scalp massage and I would run my fingers through Joseph’s silky hair. One day he looked up at me and said, “I just fell in love with you all over again.” I know, I know. You’re all throwing up at how sappy we were. We didn’t care. We couldn’t go anywhere without holding hands, or hugging or PDA’s.
Joseph proved right away he wasn’t messing around with this whole getting married thing. He still waited tables at the Steak House and worked for a lawn company in the warmer months. He decided instead of going to school for building construction he was going to scrap that idea and just go straight for the “learning on the job” route (you’d be laughed off a job site claiming to know how to frame houses from a book.) He landed a position pretty quickly and shortly became the lead of his crew.
Now it was time for me to step up and get a real job in my field. As much as I hated waiting tables, getting a graphic design job was scary and intimidating! There was an opening for a graphic designer at my brother in law’s company and I was hired. I don’t even remember my title. I just remember that I hated that job. I spent two years in art school and my first real job was … drum roll… designing medical forms. That meant I moved an existing logo a couple of inches to the left and typed out medical jargon with boxes for doctors to check off.
Picture chewing dry chicken. It never goes down. You just keep chewing and chewing and the wad of chicken just gets bigger and bigger. It served its purpose as nourishment and was a means to an end. That was my first job. I was grateful for the income and insurance but there was nothing creative about it. It helped me put away money for our wedding.
I hated wedding planning with a passion! I did not care about those details you see women fawning and stressing over. Joe used to joke he was so lucky to have such a low maintenance girlfriend. I hated clothes shopping, I didn’t wear pounds of make-up, and I didn’t need fancy restaurants. I lived off hugs. Ha! Being the easy going girl I was, I just wanted to marry my man in a church and I wanted our marriage and vows to be blessed by God. I wanted that deep in my heart even if I didn’t know what that meant just yet. Joe felt the same way even though we couldn’t really explain it. We just knew it was the right thing.
I was training in my new job, trying to plan this wedding and learning Natural Family Planning all at the same time. I was so overwhelmed. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is reading the body’s fertility signs to know if one is ovulating or not to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Neither Joseph nor I wanted to accidentally harm a pregnancy at any stage, so we knew we’d never use birth control (since birth control has the capability to abort a fertilized egg or could cause cancer down the road.) Instead, we chose to learn about how to read my fertility. Yes, he came to the classes with me because my fertility was also his. We were in this together. It wasn’t all on me. This would prove to be the best decision we ever made. Challenging, but worth it.
The details of the wedding were an annoyance to us and in hindsight, we had the wedding for our families. Our mothers would have been crushed had we eloped. Joseph was the first in his family to be married. The wedding was just a day but our marriage would be for life. We wanted to fast forward through that day so we could start living our life together as husband and wife! In fact, before Joe proposed to me, he told me his dad’s only advice was, “Remember, marriage is forever.” Joe said, “I know, that’s why I’m so excited!”
We had a great priest with a sense of humor counseling us before our wedding. I loved every second of those sessions because we discussed all the things our marriage should entail and we couldn’t wait to just jump right in. It was all so romantic in theory. He must have thought we were a little naïve but he signed away on marrying us anyways. In fact at the wedding ceremony, he stated that “marriage is a 3 ring circus. His ring, her ring and suffering.” Of course we all laughed. But he did remind us that when we marry we need to let God be the 3rd ring in that marriage, to bind us together. That sank deep into my heart and took root there over the years. I’m a slow cooker and it takes me while to come around to things, but that seed was planted nonetheless. Our job as a married couple was to include God and get each other to heaven.**
Joe and I were enamored with one other. “We completed each other.” We even completed each other’s sentences! We had folks tell us we wouldn’t always sit on the same side of the booth with one another in restaurants, and we laughed; they didn’t know us! We were madly in love and we’d always be like that. We were strong. We had our humor, our silliness and we were passionate about each other like no one’s business. Always together. We had it ALL and could face anything! Our Love was all we needed…Or so we thought.
Joseph and I both had our fair share of baggage. I shared my story on this blog to give you an idea of what things were like for myself before him, but Joe had his own story and struggles. We had equally broken paths to one another. There came storms in our marriage and we were not spared from damage. We numbed our pain differently based on our own histories. Sometimes we filed things away in our minds/hearts to not deal with it. Sometimes we wore our heart on our sleeve and were vulnerable to the world for false comforts. Sometimes we swallowed the pain or stored it elsewhere while building walls around our hearts. We brought expectations into the marriage the other couldn’t possibly meet, because the other wasn’t God. How deeply we needed Him…
Marriage is Holy. It’s a sacrament and a vocation; a symbol of Christ and his Bride, the Church. The husband, Christ, lays down his life for His bride, the Church… Together they give life to the world and bring that life back to the Father. It’s more than a verbal commitment. No wonder the evil one tries to destroy marriage. Those outside forces will try to sabotage it if you don’t pay attention. You need to protect your marriage first and foremost because it is not immune to the world. It’s fragile and constantly under siege. Be prepared to be hit from all angles! You need God’s guardianship over your marriage but in order to do that you need to invite Him in, intentionally. Invite Him into EVERY aspect.
18 years of Hindsight***
We love with the limited capabilities we have. We can only give what we own and in whatever shape it’s in… We love with what we have been taught. That’s not to say we can’t learn to love better… We don’t have all the answers and that’s okay! Grace gives you patience to learn along the way and to grow you in wisdom. There will be times in your marriage you feel you have nothing left to give. Times when you won’t like each other. Times when you want to run away. Times of temptation. Times when you need strength to choose each other minute by minute. Times you have to choose to die to yourself for the good of the other… What keeps you strong and fills in the gaps of your humanity, is Christ! The grace of God gives you a mile when you don’t think you can go another foot. He is the perfect Lover of your soul. He doesn’t give His heart in pieces like we do. He is capable. He gives FULLY. God is True Love. I pray we desire His Perfect Love most of all. When we accept His love for us we can begin to love like Him. Otherwise, without Him, we pour from an empty cup.