As we enter the last two months of 2016, I’m looking toward 2017 with hope for completion and restoration.
In a moment of solitude, I was praying and thinking about Russ, our marriage, and the coming year. I was wondering how I could love and serve him better – how I could nurture our marriage more.
This wasn’t coming from a holy, “I’m an amazing, perfect, always thinking of my husband first” place, although I wish it had been. It was coming from a desperate, “We could have lost our marriage; now we’re coming out of a dark pit and want to heal and never go back there again” place.
These last years have been incredibly hard. I wrote about the challenges in my post, Can a Really Good Marriage Have a Really Hard Year?
I’ve seen multiple marriages crumble under the weight of parenting kids from “hard places,” and it’s widely accepted that traumatically losing a child is a tremendous stress on marriage as well.
We’re doing both.
Thankfully, we had twenty-three years of marriage before we entered the world of therapeutic parenting, and thirty years of marriage before we lost our daughter. We had a strong foundation.
We also aren’t recovering from the pain of addiction or unfaithfulness, both of which break hearts and lives. I can think of four marriages among my friends that have survived a spouse being unfaithful – it can be done. It takes a huge amount of forgiveness and determination to rebuild, and in some cases, the wounds cannot be healed.
By the grace and kindness of God, prayers of good friends, our own desperation, and the strength of the promises we made all those years ago, we’re beating back the darkness in our own hearts and asking Jesus to enter in. We’re clinging to each other.
There’s a whole story of the beautiful way Jesus broke through to us, which I’ll save for another day, but since that time, we’ve been very tender to each other. We’re turning toward each other and not away, even in the most stressful moments.
But I digress, let me get back to the coming year.
I was sitting in a beautiful house last month, looking out the window at choppy waves, and two words came to me very clearly: completion and restoration.
2017 is a year for Completion and Restoration.
I wrote these words in my journal and sat looking at them for a long time. What does God have in mind?
I like to get things done, so I often plow my way through projects, or drag Russ into my big ideas.
Russ is an engineer – an engineering professor, no less. You women who are married to engineers know what I’m talking about. He is detail-oriented, research-minded, and meticulous.
I, on the other hand, like to see quick results and check projects off my list, even if the results aren’t quite perfect, which means this is a source of pretty significant conflict for us.
We had been tripping over this stumbling block for many years when we met our ultimate challenge.
Ten years ago, we adopted four children in sixteen months and our world fell apart.
All at once we had eleven children, three of whom had significant needs. Within a short time, their trauma resulted in trauma for the rest of our children, giving us a family of traumatized children.
We were shaken to our core, knocked to our knees in desperation, crying out to God for help.
The next years were consumed with seeking healing for our children. If you’ve been reading long, you know we spent two years traveling to Seattle every other week for therapy for kids. We traveled to Nebraska and Montana. Russ and I completed TBRI training and spent a week in Texas taking classes with Dr. Karyn Purvis and David Cross at TCU.
We’ve been all in – giving it everything we have; now life is changing and opening up a little. We’re breathing a little more easily.
We’re still doing therapy with a couple of our kids and pursuing educational support. We’re immersed in sports because it’s so good for them.
And we’re working our way through grief, which is a long, winding road for our family.
All that to say, there are many unfinished projects in our lives, some of them going back many years.
I’m not only talking about home projects, although there are plenty of those, but all kinds of important things that have been left undone, like updating our will (why yes, we do have more than six children, we have eleven, but, oh wait it’s been so long that only four of them are now under 18).
There are projects we started before the kids came home that have been left undone ever since. We need to decide if we should return to them. Perhaps they are dreams from a former life that no longer fit who we are and what matters to us now.
There is a lot to talk and pray about.
And that leads me to the next part of what I think God is speaking to us – Restoration, which I’ll write about Wednesday.
If you are in a hard season in your marriage, please hold on. Get help. Marriage can be hard – and you can do hard things.
Find a long-married couple to mentor you. Seek out a good counselor. One reader told me Relationship Lifeline save her marriage. Check it out.
There are many good books available.
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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work was recommended by our counselor. I recently heard an interview with the author of Very Married and enjoyed her candor and thoughts on marriage. It’s on my list. Lastly, the authors of How We Love offered a pre-conference workshop at the Refresh Conference a couple of years ago. Their book is also used by Relationship Lifeline.
What do you hear the Lord speaking to you about 2017?
Friends, thank you for reading; I hope my words serve and bless you.