A month ago today I sat across from a good friend who asked me the famous question, “How’s marriage?” I looked at her and with sheer honesty confessed that it had been nothing but amazing. “I keep waiting for the bubble to burst… because so far everything has just been so much better than I could have dreamed.” It was the day before Justin and I would move out of our first apartment and back to Woodbridge, our hometown, and in with family while we save for a house. “Oh, the bubble with burst, friend. But when it does, you’ll get through it.” Her words came at just the right time.
The month of March was hands down the hardest thing we have faced so far in marriage. It wasn’t anything that had changed between us… it was everything that was happening around us. The week after we moved into our current home, we had to say goodbye to my sweet 15 year old toy poodle puppy. I obviously knew the day was coming… and it didn’t make it any easier. I was absolutely wrecked. I kept texting my closest friends saying how terrified I was that the death of a pet had so emotionally upended me. Justin was taking a class for volunteer firefighting that had him away for two weekends and I had shoots in the evenings and we were generally just trying to get adjusted to our new living situation and because I tend to get a little anxious with any sort of change in general, moving and living somewhere new on top of losing my beloved childhood dog…. March was really, really hard. But we got a firsthand lesson in what loving each other in and through the trenches of life might look like.
I’m thankful for a husband who just lets me cry when I really can’t put any words to why I’m crying. One that brings me sweatpants and a comfy hoodie and wraps me up in his arms and just says, “I know. I know.” Our newlywed season has been so much fun. It’s been nothing short of a fantasy, being home for Justin when he walks through the door after a day of work, decorating our little apartment, making so many homemade dinners and sharing countless glasses of wine… just the two of us. It was such a special season and of course we miss it. But this is marriage. Learning how to love each other and adapt together through whatever comes your way. It requires patience, prayer, selflessness… the forethought of thinking of your spouse before you think of yourself. It’s as simple as looking at my calendar and setting boundaries on my evenings and weekends because I know the time we both want and need together and I need to build my business around that and not the other way around. It’s also as simple as knowing what time I should have dinner ready for Justin, what time we both need to retire for the evening, and when I should be waking up in the morning so that I’ll be tired when Justin goes to sleep so that I can fall asleep with him. Marriage is really just learning a lot of things and having grace for yourself and the other person when one (or both) of you stumbles a bit… or when one of you cries herself to sleep for 8 nights in a row and isn’t her normal cheery self for a while. My sweet husband has never hesitated for a second to keep loving me in just the way he knows I need him to.
This in-between season we are in is temporary and different, but so good. I find myself thanking the Lord for the hard stuff because I can already see how it’s made our marriage stronger, sturdier. It’s deeper and the grooves are being worn in more every day, which makes it easier to settle in to the comfort and safety of confiding in and relying on each other.
When I lost Chloe, I felt like a part of me died with her. There was this playful, 7-year-old girl who would cradle her tiny little puppy in her arms no matter what was going on in the world around her. Chloe was there when we changed homes 19 times, when I started middle school, high school, and college. She was there when a boy broke my heart at 13… and then later when I bought Justin home and he was the first male she EVER liked immediately and didn’t bark at when he walked in. I knew he was special from that moment. She was there (and thrilled) when we got engaged, when we got married, and when we were just settling into our first apartment… she loved Justin so much and in that room on her last day I remember just asking him to pet her ears like he always would and she settled into his touch like she always had. Poodles are the second most intelligent breed of dog (source) so when I saw how much she loved Justin it just reinforced what I already knew… how kind and gentle of a heart and spirit he has. I knew I married I good one but didn’t know just how good until we walked through this last month together. I’m so glad it’s over, but also so glad it happened. I guess that’s where the peace comes from, knowing you’re cared for and loved… and not just by human effort.
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” 1 John 4:7-12
The day we said goodbye to Chloe, my heart broke into a million pieces. It felt like it had been ripped out of my chest, laid out on the table next to her and left there at the animal hospital with her when I walked out. In that moment, I couldn’t handle the weight of death in this world. I know it’s “just a dog.” But the sting of losing something — someone — that I loved was no unfamiliar feeling. Justin gently reminded me that night that when we grieve, we can associate that grief with other times we’ve lost a loved one and that grief can resurface and our brains struggle to separate the two. I knew it was true. Losing Chloe felt like I was going back in time to that day when I lost my mom. The way the sun shone brightly in the sky even though my world felt so dark… and the way that I just knew everything was going to be okay because of this unexplainable peace in my heart in the midst of it all. As Chloe lay before me, drifting in and out of sleep, I bent down in the same way I bent down a decade ago to whisper how much she was loved, how much we love you and how wonderful you are and how you are not alone here at the end of all you’ve ever known. How we love you so.
If I didn’t know Jesus I’m not sure I could face these moments at all. I’m certain I couldn’t face them alone. Because in these moments rather than feeling like I’m mustering every ounce of strength within me… instead I feel like I’m being carried through it all. That is the gift. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I have an old envelope from when I was 10 years old and traveling to an overnight camp with my 5th grade class. In it my mom left a note “for emergencies only” just in case I got to the point where I was so homesick I couldn’t stand it any longer. In it she wrote, “I know I can’t be there with you, but I’m sending someone better than me. Talk to Jesus. He will make you feel better.” She couldn’t have known what that note would mean to me thirteen years later when I said goodbye to someone we both loved so much. One night in the middle of my sobs Justin turned to me and said, “You know who Chloe is reunited with now, right?” and I cried even harder. I don’t know exactly when the promises of eternal life begin and what the restoration of creation looks like when it comes to losing a pet. What I do know is that the things God has in store for those who love Him far exceed anything within our human imagination’s reach. So when I said goodbye to Chloe, in the midst of all this grief from all the loss I’ve known in my short lifetime, it was the love of my friends, the love of my family, my sweet husband, and this incredible love and peace from the Lord that enabled me to just be. It’s love that carries us through the darkest of times.
March was a month of loss for us, yet also a month of promise and hope. We lost my sweet puppy, we lost our first apartment, we lost this life together that we had come to know and love so well… yet in the midst of loss there is so much hope for the future. We are waiting with eager anticipation for what’s to come. Through the transitions of life, we cling to love.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5