I have been blessed with a sister-in-law that was my sister long before we married brothers. We are blessed to see each other often, and every time we get together, we talk about marriage, our attempts to figure out our husbands, and the ways our men are so alike. Last weekend we were together, sitting in the middle of nowhere, as our husbands hunted wild hogs. As we sat there, I looked to her and said, "I'm proud of you for not losing yourself in marriage."
J and I got married so fast, completely obsessed with each other, but totally unprepared for the hard work of loving each other sacrificially. We were the first to get married, and were 21 year old babies. The only other marriages we had seen were our parents, and we were as different as night and day. After a few years of marriage, we decided to have children, and we ended up having two back-to-back. In my attempt to become everything everyone thought J should have, and through my personal pressure to be the "perfect" wife and mom, I lost myself and walked away from some of the gifts God had given me.
Sometimes, I have looked in the mirror and seen a woman at war within herself. In many ways, God has softened her heart and made something beautiful out of the remains of yesterday. But in other ways, the woman before me has isolated herself from the people who love her most. She's become anxious, perfectionistic, melancholy, and insecure. The woman that used to be independent, optimistic, free-spirited, and tenacious often finds herself pushed to the corner out of fear.
But in the last few months, I have begun to see life with a little more clarity. The fog from post-partum life has lifted. My husband and I are walking through our sweetest days ever. And I am finally reaching out again to my dear friends. With a renewed mind, I can pinpoint the first time I felt as though I wasn't enough. I can go back to those first few months as a new mom and feel the sting of tears roll down my cheeks as I sat there wondering how I'll ever do it all. I can remember the first time I began to isolate myself from my family and friends. And I can see glimpses of that go-getter, spark in her eye woman coming back, pushing fear aside, ready to run with wild abandon.
With clarity, we are faced with the truth, and with the truth we have the choice to walk forward and share with wisdom, or to run and hide.
As I sat with my sister, I chose to admit my wrongdoings, come to terms with my failures, push past my fear, and share. And as I shared my heart pondered these things-
Don't forget friendships, only to try and rebuild them later. Hold onto them tight. Stay connected. You still need them.
Don't be intimidated by the wisdom of your mom. Remain teachable. Let her words speak truth into your life. She knows. She's been there. And she wants you to succeed more than she ever did.
Don't forget to call your sister as much as possible. She is your first and most treasured friend. Let her encourage you and love you through the dark days.
Don't worry about your skills as a wife, mom, and cook. These skills take time to master, some skills are instinct, but no one can tell you how to do it "perfectly". Each husband, family, and taste bud is different. Keep trying and you'll find the right combination.
Don't let the "red flags" of it happening too fast or the differences others see determine the value you bring into your husband's life. God has given you to this man, knowing one cannot fulfill His great plan without the other.
Don't settle for the hardships of right now, thinking they last forever. Marriage is hard work. It is only through Jesus that a marriage of two sinners is made holy. So walk in hand-in-hand in fellowship with Him. Pray for eyes like His to see past the hurt and flaws. Pray for lips like His that spill forth sacrificial love and encouragement instead of venom. And pray for a heart like His, filled with love and forgiveness on the best and worst days.
Don't lose yourself. God has given you a tenacious, strong, independent spirit, don't apologize for it. Instead, seek Him and ask Him to refine it for His purposes. Your gifts are valuable to Him because He gave them to you. He wants you to use them for His glory. Never be ashamed of the beautiful soul He has given you.
While I have felt lost, I know I haven't been alone. My precious husband has always been here, loving me through it all, encouraging me back to the joyful, bold, carefree woman he married. He's never expected perfection, and he's never asked me to change. My family has never quit speaking truth into my life, even when I've pushed them away with harsh words. My friends have continued to be apart of all of life's big moments, and have allowed for me to lay the first bricks of rebuilding. And now I sit, surrounded by many young wives and mamas, willing to say I haven't gotten it all right, but there's hope. And where hope remains, fear doesn't reign.
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”
Isaiah 43: 1-7