Our family had lost everything: our dreams, our home, our jobs, our vehicle, and every possession, except what we crammed into fourteen boxes. I blamed Joe, my husband. Within a six month time frame, we had lost my father-in-law and every dream I had ever imagined. Now, I was nine months pregnant with our third child, and our entire family was sleeping inside my mother’s sewing room. I kept trying to tell my husband that I was unhappy, but when you lose everything, there’s not much a soul can do.
Finally, in an attempt to appease me, Joe took what was left of our savings and put it toward the deposit and month’s rent on a house. It was tiny, but it was our own place, and at least our newborn wouldn’t be sleeping in an already overcrowded bed.
We took any money we had left, and we bought some furniture: beds for our children, table and chairs, sofa, and a mattress for my husband and me; my mom and dad bought our newborn a crib. It wasn’t much, but it was ours.
After our baby was born, I found myself more and more angry. I didn’t understand how God could allow our work to come to an end. It was all I had ever really wanted to be, but now, I had no dreams left. I didn’t have the emotional strength to dream at all.
I could feel myself crawling into a dark hole. I wanted to be happy. I saw my children, but it felt as if I were held captive inside a gloomy, dark cave. I could hear my children playing and dancing on the front lawn, but I was only able to watch them through the darkened windows of this gloomy place in which I barricaded myself. I felt alone, and I blamed the one that loved me the most.
Joe lovingly poked a tickle finger toward me in the car one day. “Stop it!” I snapped.
His smile dropped along with his head. “Why don’t you ever let me make you smile anymore?”
“I don’t like to be tickled.” I hurriedly brushed his question aside, but still, it burned within me. It forced me to recognize something that I didn’t want to admit. I didn’t want to take any responsibility for the struggles in our marriage, but still the thought had been injected into my psyche that I was choosing to not allow him to make me happy.
I was going to write Joe a letter. My pen was my weapon, and with it, I was going to inform him why I wasn’t happy. I placed my pen on the paper when suddenly I felt a gentle voice whisper, “Write down every good memory.”
I shook it off. I placed my pen to paper. Suddenly again, the voice: “Write down every good memory you’ve made together. Because if you write this letter, they will be all you have left of your marriage.”
Those words struck like a dagger to my heart. I wasn’t happy, but was I really ready to say goodbye?
I dug deep for the first memory. I like how my husband tells me I’m beautiful, no matter what number my scale taunts me with. I like when my husband runs around the room holding our children up in the air for “Daddy-Coaster.” I like that my husband still takes me by the hand to help me when I’m coming down stairs. By this time, the memories were flowing. I love on our honeymoon, Joe danced with the Country Bears at Disney World. I love that when I speak to my husband, no other woman in the room exists.
More memories came, and the more emotional I became. Tears fell onto the page blurring the ink as I continued. I love that no matter how I feel about myself, my husband always refers to me as his queen. I love that he never gives up on me.
By the time I had finished, the page was filled with beautiful memories. I folded up the tear-stained paper, put it inside an envelope, and placed it on Joe’s desk. I wasn’t sure how he would perceive it. Maybe it would light a spark. Maybe it would be throwing a match at a rain-soaked log.
After Joe got home, he sat down at his desk to do paperwork. I picked up the envelope. “Did you see this?” I questioned. “Yes, I saw it,” he said as he turned back to his desk.
“Take it.” I pushed it toward him.
“I don’t want it,” he coldly replied.
“Take it, please,” my voice softened.
“I don’t want it!” Joe demanded pushing it back toward me.
I was upset, but I opened the envelope, and I began to read. “I like it when Joe opens the door for me.” Joe looked up at me. “I like the way he always carries my bags.” I noticed a smile start to open. “I love it when he kisses my neck while I’m washing dishes.” He stood up from his chair and came toward me.
“What is this?” he asked.
“It’s every good memory I recall from our marriage.” I smiled back at him.
“I thought it was a letter to tell me that you were leaving.” Tears pulled to his eyelids.
“It’s a letter to ask you, if you’ll let me stay.” My husband’s strong arms reached around me and held me like they did on our wedding night.
I would love to say that our marriage has been perfect since that night, but the truth is, happily ever after is a choice, not a right. So, is our life perfect? Actually, half of the time, it’s a down-right mess, but it’s mine. Today, I recognize that I can choose to focus on the triumphs or the struggles. Sometimes, it means I pull out that old list of memories and read them off one at a time. Then, I smile, wipe away a tear, and again I make a decision. Yes, I still want my mess.