Today’s guest post is from Jackie Mason. Jackie is a wife and mother of three girls. You can hear more of her thoughts and story on her youtube channel, StubbornMomDotCom.
We met at church, I think I was 13. My dad was in charge of the church musical and I was tagging along. I was always tagging along in ministry or musical related things my dad was involved in. We had either just started going to this church or I had decided to start coming along, after going through a negative teenage phase where I had taken a break from church in favor of attending the church of St. Mattresses most Sunday mornings. After being coaxed into attending youth group and actually being social, I met Chris.
I was into music and so was he. I think I caught his eye messing around on guitar and circulating around my copy of a Musician’s Friend magazine. Eventually we ended up hanging out during our parent’s drama rehearsals, sitting on the roof of the church, and riding around in our friend’s truck listening to all that was popular in the Christian rock and ska scene, which was all the rage at the time. We really bonded as friends from similar interests. Then we grew up together. As the internet emerged, so did our relationship. First it was talking on our landline phones while watching Boy Meets World (and those later seasons of Full House when Michelle was no longer cute) on T.G.I.F. Fridays with an old television that I was thrilled to have brought in my bedroom. Eventually we were messaging, before messaging was a thing, through means of back and forth emails made possible by the magic of AOL CD-ROM-in-the-mail dial-up internet. Can you hear that sound? It’s either like nails on a chalk board or music to your ears. I guess it depends on how fast your heart beats when your desktop alerts that You’ve Got Mail!
Those hangouts, passed notes, awkward phone calls and connections over the new-fangled information superhighway between teens in the late 1990’s grew into a high-speed connection. Despite living on opposite sides of town we saw each other often, at church, playing in the youth group worship band, attending concerts, several school dances and forming a band with our friends.
Over this period of time as I was growing obsessed with my teenage boyfriend, he was growing into a man of many skills. He was the church drummer, not just for the youth group but for “big church” as well. Simultaneously, he took care of the sound and technical needs for the church, which grew into a passion for live sound engineering. That passion drew him to Belmont University. The draw to obtain a legitimate bachelor’s degree with the promise of stability and to be part of the Music City U.S.A. in Nashville was all too tempting of a notion for us music-obsessed teens. We moved away to Tennessee for college and set out to chase our dreams in the music business in a pre-911 world.
We were good kids. I mean, really- good, Christian kids. In the face of a changing America and rapidly growing digital world, we stayed our course. We got our first cell phones. We waited- to have sex until marriage. Many of our friends joined the war in Iraq. We got our degrees as scheduled.
Then kids came. And they came fast.
Six months into marriage we were pregnant with baby number 1. When the firstborn was 6 months old, we found out were expecting the next. And at the next 6-month mark we were beckoned by the third baby girl.
My friends called me Fertile Myrtle since by the age of 25 we had 3 kids. Meanwhile those friends pursued careers during the day and partied at night. My nights consisted of attempts to get the babies to sleep and praying for my husband’s safety while driving home from late-night gigs. The intensity of adulting came calling immediately and part-time job into part-time job, dreams were not reached.
Now this is the part where I can get really negative. Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, right? The innocence of high-school sweethearts’ story through the rearview mirror. But my mirror is foggy, and I don’t see all so clearly. Here I am supposed to be writing a blog about How We Met but I am not meeting it with completely good vibes. I can’t write up something that is all unicorns and rainbows, “…and here we are 20+ years later with 3 kids living the dream life!” when the degrees we acquired brought insurmountable student loan debt instead of promised prosperity. Insert insincere happy-face emoji.
Placing blame for a purported plan-change is easy, and we have each taken our turn over the last 15 years of our young marriage. Blame one spouse for not working enough, blame the other for working too much. Blame the system for setting us up for failure. Blame our mentors for not warning us or blame ourselves for not seeing it coming. Either way we have learned that blame leads to bitterness. Even if we live in a world that tells us to pursue worldly success or our passions, while making it wildly difficult to raise a family- being angry doesn’t help our marriage.
We still aren’t sure where we stand. Do we keep pursuing a goal or change our expectations? We are not sure. All we know is that we stand together. The Bible says that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” And if it weren’t for the truths in the Bible and us individually choosing to follow those truths, there is no way we would be married today. And each day it seems, we take turns. One day I am the rock and the next he’s lifting me up. We don’t even know where we are headed. If you asked either one of us, we might not say we have been successful in all areas in life, but I think we’d both say we are successful in marriage. So if we’ve got that, then it’s something to hold onto. No matter what comes.
So here’s Four things I’ve learned so far.
Your spouse is a sinner! Yep, another life-lesson from the Bible, and an essential one. They are going to disappoint, hurt and embarrass you at several points in your relationship. And you will do the same to them. So since you are just as much a sinner as your spouse, extend grace. “Freely you have received; freely give.”
Your Spouse is NOT Your All! No one person can be the fulfillment of all your desires. What kind of pressure is that anyway? They are a central player, call them your other half or partner-in-life if you like. But know they are not there to fulfill your every waking need or desire. Not even God exists for that purpose! Have friends, hobbies, interest, and a spiritual life in addition to a relationship with your husband or wife. Eventually you learn that the world does not revolve around you, but in serving others. Start by serving your spouse. “Walk in the way of love…”
Expect to Adjust Your Expectations. I am not naturally a flexible person, so I was all about the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book series when I was birthin’ my littles. There should be a book about that for marriage, but life just isn’t that predictable. When your hubby is grumpy, you can’t just burp him! Although gassiness may be a factor, dealing with adult relationships is much more complex. So if you have expectations going into the marriage that life doesn’t seem to deliver, know that it is normal. God has some crazy plan up his sleeve that is teaching us lessons along the way. Learn to be flexible. That doesn’t mean you lower your expectations, simply adjust. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?”
It’s About The Long-Game. I’m not a “sportsball” person, so excuse the misuse of the analogy, but marriage is a long-game deal. You are in this for the long haul so having a mindset that focuses on the long-term can be helpful. When praying, do you visualize the future? When in conflict can you let go of things that don’t actually affect the end zone? Maybe you are picturing the old couple in the end of The Notebook, or maybe it’s your grandparents, but if you have a picture in mind of how you want the future to look, it can really help how you shape your today. Know that each today is a piece of a bigger tomorrow. “Let us not become weary in doing good…”
It’s only been 15 years or marriage, so I am sure I could learn a lot more from other who are way ahead of us. And I’d love you hear from you. In the meanwhile as we are trucking along, I am thankful that I am married to a man, a good man, with whom I share a lot of interests. I am not sure where that will take us, but I am glad that we are going there together.
For more love stories like this check out the How We Met Series here on Messy Mom. You can also follow Jackie on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram at StubbornMomDotCom. Her website is under construction, much like her life.