the marriage fight

Like Danielle said, that’s a pretty loaded question, but that’s how we like to roll.

I have to digress a little bit to share one of the things that first stuck out to me about Danielle (besides the fact she seemed to like to wear dark’ish clothes and seemed a bit mysterious when I first met her).

My memory is not the greatest at times, but I remember being wowed hearing Danielle speak Campus Crusade for Christ one night. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it was clear then (and also before) that she loved Jesus. I’ll never forget hearing her speak (even if I can’t remember it all. Sorry, babe!)

Fast forward to our pre-marriage counseling. A dear friend, who later officiated at our wedding, said something to the effect “if you keep Christ as the center of your marriage, you can make it through anything.” I know, I know. That sounds totally cliché, but it has proven to be true time and time again.

When I look back at all the things we’ve been through in our marriage, and continue to go through, I don’t know how we would have made it without Jesus. I think one or both of us would probably have given up at some point along the way.

I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
<blockquote>Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.</blockquote>
I see myself and Danielle so much in these verses. There have been times where we’ve had to “help each other up” spiritually. When we dealt with our first miscarriage I really tried to maintain faith and encourage Danielle that our time would come, and it did. God was faithful, although we couldn’t understand His plan at that time.

When I’ve battled with anxiety and depression, Danielle has stayed strong for me. She’s walked with me, cried with me and prayed with me. She’s helped me keep my eyes on Jesus during times where it was hard to on my own. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God put us into each other’s lives and knew how we would complement each other and help each other in our faith.

I’d love to sit here and tell you what a great job we’ve done at keeping Jesus the center of our marriage. How we’ve read through the Bible together. How our spiritual growth has just continued year after year of our marriage.

But I’d rather not lie to to you. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is at the center of our marriage, holding it together, but it hasn’t always been easy keeping Him there, and quite frankly, we often fall short. Many times life gets in the way. Hurt gets in the way. We get in the way and make a mess of things.

That’s the awesome thing about Jesus. He loves us. No matter what. We’ve failed so many times, and we will continue to fail, but that will NEVER change His love for us (and his love for you, too, by the way). And because He loves us, we can share that love with others.

I can tell you this. I have not always done a very good job of sharing that love with the people I know. But my hope is that by reading this blog you can experience the love that Jesus has for you, and let that love transform your marriage into something beyond your wildest imagination.

While you fight for your marriage, fight to keep Jesus at the center of your marriage.

Read More

Oh. My. Word.

We’ve been busy being married and being parents and being friends. This blog totally suffered – but it’s been in the back of my mind almost every day. I wrote down LISTS of topics and FINALLY have a moment to write.

Why not dive RIGHT in and ask a hard one. Does Jesus have a place in your marriage.

Let me tell you about the role He plays in ours – from my perspective.

When Jared and I started dating – I told him I wasn’t interested in a relationship – but a marriage. It freaked him out. He needed a few days to adjust and let that sink in. That didn’t mean that I wanted to marry him RIGHT THEN – but that I wasn’t about being in a relationship that went nowhere. If any red flags came up – on either side – then it was over. I didn’t want to hang on to something that wouldn’t last. He met my parents on our first date. I’d known his for a while. Family was very important to both of us – we accepted that we wouldn’t just be marrying each other – but our families too. It was very important to both of us that we shared the same beliefs – politically and morally. Check. We both knew that we needed to marry someone who loved Jesus – had Him living inside their heart. Check.

Have we done a good job at keeping Jesus in the center of our marriage – eh – mediocre at best. But He has always been there – especially when it matters. Well – we really turned to Him when it mattered. He was always there waiting. We’ve prayed together – cried together – fought together – read together – taught together – loved together.

I have no idea how to love people without Jesus in my heart. I have a hard enough time loving them with Him hanging out in there. I cannot imagine what it would be like without. Let me tell you why.

Jesus bled for me – died for me. He has forgiven me. He loves me. Because I have experienced that love – I share it. I try to represent the love of Jesus through it – I fail most of the time. But I know what it’s like to be broken and empty – and thanks to Jesus I know what’s it’s like to be healed and full. Living with someone and sharing my life with them – could only be done with Jesus on my side.

I get angry and judgmental. I get impatient and unkind. I get irrational and sometimes just mean. Without Jesus in my life – I would be horrendous to live with. To love. Without Jesus in my marriage – I wouldn’t be so quick to admit my wrongs – and I have LOTS. I wouldn’t be so willing to work on our issues and to forgive. I wouldn’t know where to turn with my worries and my doubts. Jared and I take them to Jesus – together.

It’s not just about going to church together. It’s not about raising a child in the church together. It’s about loving Jesus. Together. It’s about spending this life on earth with the person that Jesus made exactly for me and spending eternity with him in heaven after this is all said and done. I cannot imagine spending my life on earth with someone that I would never see again after this life. Someone that I know would be spending their eternity in hell – in pain – in turmoil.

Having Jesus in the center of marriage has been THE reason we stay together. The reason we work our crap out. The reason we forgive. The reason we love.

Read More

I’ve always known one thing. I want to be a mom.

When Jared and I were dating – a deal breaker came along – I wanted kids – Jared wasn’t so sure.

I would be a mother. I’ve always known it. He decided that he could indeed have babies.

We got married in June of 2004 – I was ready to start right away – but Jared wasn’t – so we waited a little bit. In July of 2005 – Jared lost his job and we moved in with his parents. NOT an ideal time to start trying. He got a job in August and we moved into his grandparents house in the fall. We talked about trying in the spring – and then the pain started. I was convinced I was dying – a brain tumor. I had crazy headaches and pressure. I thought I was having a stroke at times. I asked Jared to cut my face open once – just take the pressure away. They diagnosed me with severe sinus infections – nerve problems – anxiety – the works. In June of 2006 – I was diagnosed with severe TMJ disorder. An answer helped. But there were still unanswered questions. Would the pain ever go away – would I live a normal life again. It took two LONG years to find help. During those years – people asked about our baby status. I couldn’t take care of myself all day let alone even think about a baby. My dream of being a mother had left my head – completely. It wasn’t an option – and I wasn’t sure it would ever be.

In August of 2008 I got my retainer. It improved my quality of life 90%. When I met with Dr. Robinson – he asked me what my goal in getting treatment was. I broke down. I told him that I wanted to be a mother – more than anything – but the constant pain had ripped that want right out of my mind. He was confident that this device would allow my dreams to become reality.

In December we decided to take the plunge and try. Little did we know that it would take no time at all – not even a whole month. We picked up our new puppy and got a positive test all in a matter of weeks. We told everyone – we were so excited. We went to a wedding in Florida. I didn’t FEEL sick – but sometimes pregnancy doesn’t affect people – I must have been a lucky one. I was emotional – but I chalked that up to our new puppy and the thought of quitting my job to become a full time photographer. We were excited and scared.

I made an appointment at the hospital in Sayre – about an hour away – and my MIL took me. Jared decided to forego that first appointment and save his time off for later ones – where we could see our little babe! I didn’t expect an ultrasound at that first appointment – but I got one. The doctor looked and looked – the image displayed on the screen showed nothing. Not a thing. I’d never seen an ultrasound being done – but I knew what the image should look like. I wasn’t seeing it.

The doctor said – well – we should be seeing a small image at 10 weeks – and I see nothing. This happens a lot more often than you would think – especially with first pregnancies. You’ll miscarry within a few weeks and then you’ll get pregnant again and it will be great! I’ll see you again in a few months.

WHAT. WAIT. WHAT. The thought of a miscarriage – NEVER – EVER – entered my mind. I mean NEVER. And here I was – experiencing it. I was shocked. I was hurt – I was sad. I called Jared with the news – and the other loves of my life – my parents and siblings – my BFF.

I was okay – for a bit. I had my new puppy to cuddle and we would get pregnant again. We would use this to grow stronger – to trust God.

We didn’t get pregnant again. Month after month. I got angry. My MIL told me to trust God – I told her I did and look what happened – why would I trust Him? I was really hurt. I felt forgotten and abandoned by God. I was FINALLY better – and we couldn’t get pregnant.

What was wrong with me?

Babies consumed my thoughts – my life – my every energy. My relationships suffered – my sanity suffered.

We tried for a year – and then went to see a specialist. I had a procedure to check my uterus and fallopian tubes – make sure they were clear and okay – they were. Perfect – according to the doctor. More than fertile. Jared on the other hand – was not so fertile. He checked in on the low range. The doctor didn’t think we would get pregnant without some sort of medical intervention. I was crushed. Consumed with grief. I came to terms with the fact that I would never bear a child. Adoption wasn’t an option at first – I wanted a little Jared and Danielle. Why was that SO much to ask?

God slowly softened my heart to adoption and even foster care. We kept my cousin’s baby one night and the next morning I had the overwhelming feeling that maybe it should just be the two of us. Maybe a baby is too much. Maybe I could be happy without one. Maybe I am not ready.

I was at peace – for the first time in 18 months. Really truly at peace. I had given it to God – seriously – at last.

Two days later I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I didn’t know what to think. A baby would be due at the beginning of May – right at the start of wedding season (I’m a photographer for those who don’t know) – and that would NOT be good for business. Yes – I seriously thought this. And I thought – what if we miscarry again – I don’t think I could deal with another – it would break me.

But this baby was meant for our hearts and our arms. My pregnancy with Fitzgerald was picture perfect. I felt fantastic – other than morning sickness the first half. I was often in disbelief that there was a little baby in there. But he was. He was born on April 28th of 2011. He was beautiful. My heart was healed. I asked God for a baby. He gave me a beautiful little boy. Finally.

We missed little Enoch but LOVED our time with Fitzy! We enjoyed him and spoiled him with love.

In January of 2012 we found out we were expecting again. We were shocked! It took so long to get Fitzy and this was a surprise!

But I was scared. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t feel pregnant. I didn’t let myself get attached to this baby – I knew it wouldn’t last. I just knew.

In early February I started bleeding and miscarried little Joy shortly after. Experiencing a miscarriage while you have a baby in your arms is much easier than when you don’t – at least in my experience. It hurt but Fitzy’s kisses eased the pain. I cried but his laughs brought me back to life. Our miscarriage brought feelings up in us – crazy and irrational feelings – that took us to a dark place. We fought and cried – I wrote about that time earlier. Losing another baby took us to a place where we almost fell apart. But we didn’t. By the pure grace of God.

Just as our relationship was getting better – getting to a whole new place of trust and love – we found out we were pregnant. Again. This time I knew this baby would be meant for our arms. This bay would be due right when we miscarried our first. It completed the circle. Our family would be complete – and God designed it JUST this way. I just knew.

And I was wrong.

We had an ultrasound and it looked great. Then the doctor called. Our baby didn’t look good. The heartbeat was low and there was a tear near the sac. My doctor said – I know you Danielle – and while I encourage you to not lose hope – I must tell you that I think you’ll start miscarrying soon. I lost it. I cried and cried and cried. How could this be happening AGAIN. And why now. I truly believed that this baby would be in my arms. But again – Fitzy’s love healed my heart quicker than our first loss.

But jealousy and anger crept in. I had (and OFTEN have) a very hard time being happy for friends that are having babies. Unless they too have struggled – then I’m a little better about it – which is SO wrong. I especially struggle with the people that have babies when we would have. I don’t understand why they are holding their little ones in their arms while I hold mine in my heart. It’s a painful reminder of what I don’t have.

Getting caught up with what you don’t have can kill you. Seriously.

So now what?

Now we love. And live. And pray for that bitterness and jealousy to leave – even though it’s so easy to hold onto.

Now we hold each other up during the hard times. I keep going to my MOPS group even though it hurts to see babies the same age as ours would have been (some days are much harder than others) – I hold those babies. Some days I might cry. Some days I just hug them and thank the good Lord that they are here even though mine are not.

Now – I refuse to pretend. It’s something I don’t do well. When there is a problem – I confront it – figure it out – get it taken care of. When the problem is jealousy and bitterness – I can’t just shove it back down to the depths. The more you shove it down – the harder it digs in and the harder it is to get out. So I deal with it. I blog about it – talk to someone about it – pray about it – hold my sweet boy.

Now we pray. Pray that if God holds more children in His plan for us – that we can deal with that answer. I’m scared that this might be our only baby. Thankfully – I went into this journey knowing that Fitzy may very well be our only – so I have no regrets in our experience. I enjoyed my pregnancy – I got pictures taken. I had pictures taken at his birth – newborn pictures. I held him. I breastfed him – for a short time. I kissed him and told him I loved him. I held him while he slept. I asked for help.

Now we pray. Pray that I don’t become obsessed with getting pregnant again. Pray that I enjoy this baby and soak in every second. Pray that I can be happy with or without another child. Pray that the people I continue to meet through this journey will touch my life. Pray that we can touch theirs.

Now. We pray.

Read More

I remember when we found us we were pregnant for the first time. It was so surreal.

Actually, let me rewind a bit first. Danielle mentioned that I was a bit apprehensive about having kids, and she was absolutely right. Terrified is probably a better word.

I’ve never really shared this with many people, and it’s pretty embarrassing. When Danielle was going through her insane problems with TMJ, I was glad. Not glad that she was suffering but glad to know that meant we’d be waiting a little while before having kids. Terrible, I know.

OK, fast forward to us finding out we were expecting.

It was right before heading to Florida to take part in one of my best friend’s weddings. We had just gotten our new Great Dane, Schrute. Life was so good.

I remember calling people as we were waiting for our plane in Elmira. We got to share the good news with our friends, the Yoders and the Fitches on the way down to the Sunshine state. It was just amazing. I remembering trying to be careful because I didn’t want to steal the thunder of our friends’ wedding.

And then I remember the life-altering bad news. They couldn’t see anything on the ultrasound. Nothing. Just blackness. I remember not even being able to comprehend what was happening. And then Danielle made it home. And I cried. And cried. And cried. It quite literally felt like my heart was breaking. One of the darkest moments of my life, for sure.

But we made it. Life returned to some normalcy, but the pain was there. Little things would happen that would bring the tears flooding again, but life went on.

I had to be the strong one for Danielle. She was in a bad place. She wanted noting more than to be a mama. And it wasn’t happening. For months. And it seemed like everyone around us was being blessed with little ones. It just didn’t make sense. It was a hard 18 months. Trying to remind your best friend that you just need to trust God, even though it doesn’t make sense and even though it was pretty much the last thing she wanted to hear.

And then we watched Danielle’s cousin’s baby for a night. What an eye opener! It was more then either of us bargained for. And then Danielle said she was OK with it just being us for the time being. I couldn’t believe it! I knew it was definitely God changing her heart.

And Boom. We were pregnant again. And terrified and excited and a whole host of other emotions. Like Danielle mentioned it was pretty much a perfect pregnancy. Danielle literally glowed. It was awesome!

On April 28, 2011 I met the most amazing little man ever. Even though I was in the midst of a rough patch of anxiety/depression, it was awesome.

Our lives haven’t been the same since!

Fast forward to 2012. We found out we were pregnant again early in the year. I wasn’t too worried because the pregnancy with Fitzy had gone so well.

Imagine my shock when I found out we were miscarrying again. It was a punch to the gut. I took it really hard, and it took me to a very dark place. I got really angry. Especially with God. Even though it wasn’t his fault. It took our marriage to one of its lowest points, but we survived. Through God’s grace.

A few months passed, and we found out we were pregnant again. Again, I was pretty optimistic, but worried too. We reached the dreaded 8 weeks again, and there was potential bad news. The Dr. said things didn’t look quite right on the ultrasound. We were scheduled for another ultrasound. When the second ultrasound was finished the tech never showed us where the baby was. I had held out hope thinking I had possibly seen a little baby on screen. That hope never played out the way I wanted. We were miscarrying. Again.

This third miscarriage almost sent me right over the edge. I know it was God helping me to hold it together. Again. He was faithful even though I blamed Him once more.

And here we are. We have one amazing, beautiful, happy baby boy in our arms, and three little ones we have to wait a little longer to see. It’s still really hard. Sometimes I’ll hear or see something that just makes me break down. I miss those little ones so much. But I’m so thankful we get to have little Fitzy in our lives.

There have been times throughout these three miscarriages when I’ve wanted to give up. There still are times. But we go on. With God’s grace. Believing in what we can’t see. Holding on to hope. Holding on to Jesus. Holding the hands of a beautiful little boy.

Read More