Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Dozen Years

Do you see our "12?" :)  At the temple heading in to do proxy sealings.  What a blessing to remember God's promises to us and what an equal blessing to make those promises available to others!  We are grateful for everything this picture represents! <3

It's difficult to put into words all that is in my heart.  TWELVE YEARS!  Whahoo!!!!  It was our wedding anniversary yesterday and Mark took the day off and we CELEBRATED!  Twelve years is a big deal, especially when 5 years ago we believed our marriage was damaged beyond repair.  We recognize everyone's situation is different, but in ours, we almost gave up too easily.  We almost walked away from a marriage that did still have life in it (granted, it was in horrible shape, but it still had potential)...a marriage that once gently and carefully nourished, could grow into a beautiful and strong relationship.  It has required BOTH of us to swallow our pride, to be willing to change, to be forgiving and generous in understanding, to be patient, to be tender with each other's feelings, and to be willing to do WHATEVER is necessary to make our marriage work.  With our friends who have gone their separate ways, only one or neither were willing to keep trying. Where marriage requires both to be willing for it to work according to God's plan, no judgement here for those who don't make it through. Even then, God has individual answers for the willing party waiting for the other to become willing or the unwilling to become willing.  Take it to Him! He knows and will teach you how to be a good spouse in your individual circumstances!  

Five years ago with our mortal perspective we couldn't see a future for our marriage.  Thankfully God could see all the beauty that would come from the ashes, the strength, experience, and knowledge that would be gained, the lessons that would be forever written in our hearts, who we could become and begin to become because of it all, those who we could then turn and encourage and strengthen because of it, and the JOY that we could experience as individuals, a couple, and a family with our faith firmly centered on Christ.  

There have been many times over the past 5 years where we didn't think we were going to make it.  It seemed too much, too hard.  Day by Day God has carried us through.  To go from where we were to where we are today has taken effort and trust.  But He has done it so that together we could do it.  Looking back over all that God has strengthened us and guided us to accomplish, it is truly miraculous! The exciting thing about this anniversary is that it puts us around 5 years out since Mark's last major relapse.  Our counselor emphasized that if you can get to 3-5 years in recovery (and not just white-knuckling it sobriety), then the chances of going the rest of your life without any relapses are extremely high.  Yes, we need to work our recovery for the rest of our lives (those things that keep us in a good place...I love that the anti-nephi-lehi's buried their swords. I understand that now.  WHATEVER IT TAKES to maintain recovery). This is an exciting milestone that 5 years ago seemed unattainable!  It gives us hope for the future.

Our lives and our marriage stand as witnesses to the reality of the power of the atonement to change things and to heal things.  We by no means claim to be a finished product or to have it all figured out, yet we have felt the healer's touch and will praise His name forever!  Our lives and marriage demonstrate that there is a God and He is very aware or our individual situations and needs.  Looking back it is clear to see that He sent the right people, circumstances, and blessings to us to have what we needed to weather through.  We are so grateful to Him and for those who acted as angels here on earth, to be on His errand on our behalf, to bear up our burdens with us and to point us to Christ.  If I could go back and give a message to myself 5 years ago or to anyone who is in that dark, dark place of despair and hopelessness for life, family, and marriage, it would be this: Hold on!  Trust!  Keep doing what you know you should, even if it doesn't feel like it's making any difference.  Keep praying.  Keep doing the best you can to act on those answers.  Love yourself.  Take time to see to your own needs.  Even though it doesn't seem like it, it will all work out somehow. 

Not everyone has the "fairy tale ending" of both parties willing to change like we eventually became as they are putting their lives back together from addiction.  Regardless of how all the shattered pieces are put together, I KNOW that we can have peace and joy regardless of the circumstances around us...whether or not our loved one chooses recovery, whether or not our loved one chooses marriage or family, whether or not our loved one even physically survives addiction... because of Jesus Christ, we can be okay (if we choose to give Him space in our heart).

Realizing that marriage is part of God's plan for our eternal happiness, we have learned well one important purpose of marriage.  We all only have one life-time to grow from inheriting fallen bodies with natural man tendencies to become like God and behave godlike.  There is much to get done in such a short time!!! Even in 100 years, God has to work quickly in our lives.  When we enter into marriage covenants, it isn't because we are godlike yet (maybe for some? but is it fair to say that most aren't there yet?).  Entering into the marriage covenant begins a life-long process of learning to become like Him by learning to become a godlike spouse.  Because of the nature of eternal marriage, that means we stick with it and don't just walk away when it become will become hard... really, really hard.  Remember, our goal is to become godlike though.  We are learning to welcome the refinement rather than defending our errors and pride.

This is from one of our favorite talks on eternal marriage"Temple marriage covenants do not magically bring equality to a partnership. Those covenants commit us to a developmental process of learning and growing togetherby practice... equal partnerships are not made in heaven---they are made ON EARTH, one choice at a time, one conversation at a time, one threshold crossing at a time" (Elder Bruce C. Hafen, emphasis added).

May we be willing to be a good spouse (regardless of whether or not our spouse is willing to receive our efforts).  May we be willing and SEEK to rely on God for our answers and Christ for our strength.  May we ask "what lack I yet" over and over again, and in the process give God our whole hearts, holding nothing back.

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