We moved back home to Michigan a little over a year ago. But it feels like it just happened. For weeks, my husband and I looked at house pictures online and took tours. My FAVORITE houses were always the old farmhouses. So much character.. I would wander from room to room almost “hearing” the stories the walls were telling me. The layers of wallpaper telling the tales through the generations that lived there. Each layer was probably picked with love and highly treasured. I could have sat in each house for hours and let the tales spin around in my mind.
But, alas.. my husband is a builder. While we often agreed that a house had (probably) been beautiful once, he does not always see the charm I still recognize. He walked each house appalled at the amateur renovations we would find. Holes cut through walls.. stairways cut through a solid oak stair rail.. Homemade cabinets. The hours of work involved in pulling wallpaper down, re-drywall-ing, or refinishing wood floors.. honestly exhausted him just thinking about it. And plumbing.. shudder.. we don’t even want to talk about that. But the deciding factor for my husband has always been the basement. The foundation NEEDS to be solid for him. He would look for cracked or crumbling basement walls. Looked for evidence of moisture or water damage. Then he examined the floor joists for cracks or rot. When my husband started to go through the mechanical room? YUP.. I tune out. I go back to imagining all the events that have happened among those walls in the last 100 years. The wisdom it had seen.
Why is my husband so concerned with the basement? He said that no matter how much time and money you put into the rooms that everyone sees.. If the basement is damaged? .. Then the house will NOT last. Honestly, I have gotten teary-eyed on more than one occasion, insisting that we could fix the basement.. make it stable. He always lovingly (and most patiently) explains that it is possible. At a huge cost and huge time commitment.. but it could be done. The upper floors could be jacked up and supported while the walls of the basement are reconstructed… and then re-poured. To ME this cost would have been worth it.. I mean think of all the memories and stories the house holds.
Marriage is a lot like a house. If the foundation the marriage is built on is sturdy and intact, then your marriage will last. If you and your spouse discuss every decision and love each other.. then the floor joists will be solid. After that, each room is built .. one memory or joyful life event at a time. When sad or tragic life events happen? Sometimes you have to patch a hole or add a layer of wall paper to cover it up.
At one time my marriage was like that old farmhouse.
You see.. I was raised with firm Faith in God. I was very confident that I knew who I was. And I had (and have) confidence in my love for my husband… We had a solid foundation for our marriage. We talked about everything and laughed with each other. So our floor joists were sturdy… We were ready to start building rooms…
So we started a family… We have 2 children. Our firstborn daughter was very strong willed. (Ok.. she still is.) She tested every level of patience… and then some. A wonderful beautiful soul… but very independent. Our second born is a son who has Special Needs. Luckily my son, decided to wait until my daughter started to grow out of the daily fights for independence before he started asking for “help”. Now at first glance, you can see my Blessing in this. I only had one child at a time, that needed my patience, persistence.. and research. But it was an exhausting existence for years.
The first crack that showed up in my basement wall was pride. I knew I could raise my kids by MYSELF.. I didn’t need anyone’s help. My husband and I could do it all alone. My pride in not asking for help caused me to be over tired and irritable at times. But all mothers are tired and irritable at times, right?!? I would simply research how to improve myself because I knew I could do a good job. But this first crack? My pride crack weakened our foundation..
My second crack was irritation. I research everything.. why strong willed children argue.. what causes Autism.. what causes bipolar.. why anxiety is genetic.. I wanted to talk through with it all with my husband when he got home from work. Sounds reasonable right? I could read a 300 page book and then try to explain it to my exhausted husband. And then get irritated because he didn’t understand it enough to discuss it with me. It seemed that he didn’t care. What I didn’t see was that he DIDN’T understand all of it. But he knew that I did ..so he trusted me. I also didn’t see that my husband was often still in that “mechanical room”. What is the mechanical room of a marriage, you may wonder? It’s the job that provides for us.. keeping a roof over his family.. insurance to keep us healthy.. working cars to take us where we need to go.. and also the financial stability that allowed me to stay home with my kids while they grew. He worried. He worried a lot more than I ever realized. Why? How could I not know? Well.. when he was in the mechanical room.. YUP.. I tuned out. How boring.. I have Faith in God. I have faith that He will provide for us.. End of story for the mechanical room. I would rather talk about the challenges God was giving us.. the set backs my son was having.. the new interventions that the special education staff was putting into place.. God’s plan for our family and the best way to follow the path He has set before us. As you can imagine.. I was irritated a lot.
Which is why the 3rd crack, rudeness, was so wide. I was tired and stressed.. and too prideful to ask for help. I prayed for strength. I prayed for peace. I prayed for my kids. I prayed for my husband. But I never prayed for help. I started to demand it from my husband though. Not everyday but on occasion. But often enough that it started to make him hesitate to want to come home at night. Come home he did though. Every night.
My 4th crack is pretty common with stay at home moms. I wonder how much more true it is for Moms of children with special needs. Moms of kids with strong wills, with disabilities, language delays, diagnoses, anxiety, attention disorders .. or any label at all. Jealousy. Such an ugly word. Envy sounds a little better.. but it still sounds like a disease. I began to envy the fact that my husband got to leave the house by himself. Envy that he was able to have full intelligent conversations with other adults. Envy the fact that my husband was a successful and respected part of his company. Small children do not show respect to their mothers. Moms at play groups are tired and worn out. Intelligent conversations aren’t even hoped for.. all we hoped for was to be not interrupted. That and to hope our kid didn’t bite/hit/kick/pinch anyone else’s child. And I just wished my son would play along side all the other children. I never begrudged another child’s successes. I always rejoiced in each one. But I would wish that my son could have easy successes too. Those wishes started to look a lot like envy for awhile.
One day, my husband came home. He helped me with out asking what I needed help with. Then he told me that he knew my job was a hard one and told me how proud he was of me. My heart soared for a full 10 seconds… and then.. I snapped. Why couldn’t he see that everyday.. not just once every 6 months. And SURE he helped out tonight.. but what about the week I couldn’t do laundry because it was upstairs and my toddler couldn’t be trusted downstairs.. did he help then? NO .. and what about the day he needed to work late.. and what about.. what about.. What I didn’t see was that my husband was trying .. he was trying to come out of the mechanical room.. he was trying to see the character in the rooms upstairs.. and he was trying to help me patch some holes in our home.
I didn’t see this for quite awhile actually. I simply added things to my “list”.. The list that my pride was constructing.
Then one day, I came across the “Love is patient..” verse in my devotions. I skipped it because I knew it by heart, right?!? The next day, a friend of mine complimented me on how my Love shines through to everyone around me.. how patient and kind I was. She couldn’t see my discontent because my pride kept it buried.. in the basement. But her comment made me pause. I thanked her .. and then shook it off. Then the next day, I found another reference to this verse in the Bible. I laughed.. because I believe that God uses our surrounding to whisper to us. Listening to that Still Small Voice whisper to me.. I pulled out my Bible… and read…
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5
The whole world could have walked through my house.. and by all appearances it would have thought my family (and marriage) looked stable.. happy even. But in that moment, I knew… I knew that the Basement of my house.. the foundation to my marriage had some pretty huge cracks in it.
You may say that the cracks weren’t really my fault. That I had a lot of stresses.. a lot of storms that rocked that foundation. Parenting, health concerns, special needs, IEP’s, surgeries, mood disorders, medications… The storms we lived through were extensive. But I could see that I didn’t have as much true Faith as I could have. That all my tears of frustration with my husband, all the tears of heartache at watching my kids suffer and struggle, all the tears of resentment at changing all my life plans to accommodate my family’s needs (EVEN though those accommodations were what I wanted).. All those tears? Without true blind Faith in God’s plan for us? I was causing those cracks to grow bigger everyday. And soon a wall was going to collapse.
As I walked through the rooms of my Marriage.. I saw all the memories.. all the good times.. and even some bad times.. But just like that old Farmhouse that I wanted to fix up so bad.. I wanted to save my marriage. Sure it would take a lot of time and hard work.. and a lot prayer. But I knew it would be worth it.
You might imagine that I called my husband right away and told him of my discovery? You’d imagine wrong. I had apologized to him time and time again for snapping at him in frustration. I had apologized over and over through the years. What I needed was to prove to him that I had Faith.
Now I would like to say that I was an overnight sensation. I was not. There was more than one day, that constant prayer and faith was needed to keep me going. There were days that I took my good friend’s advice that sometimes we “Fake it to make it.” And there were days I crashed… and cried at my weakness. Why do it then? If I had to fake my happiness why not simply get divorced? Well I know that divorce is anything but simple… and.. I didn’t have to fake happiness. I had to fake patience on irritable days. I didn’t have to fake love. I had to fake kindness on a rude day. NOW.. I do know that sometimes divorce is the only option. So please don’t think me critical or that I am judging anyone who has chosen to divorce. But my marriage.. it had a STRONG foundation. We just needed to fix the cracks before they broke our marriage beyond repair.
Fix them we did. It took a lot of work. And I still apologize for my irritable days. But when I pray for forgiveness.. I pray that I also forgive myself for my weakness. When I forgive my husband for his bad day, I pray that God wipes it from my heart and my mind.. so I no longer have a list to fall back on. The result? The love and faith that painted the rooms in our marriage? It also paints our foundation now. All that work was so worth it.
We did not buy that old farmhouse. I saw my husband’s wisdom that we needed to have a home with a sound foundation. And the character? Well we are adding our own charm to our home one day at a time. And these days my husband and I.. well we do a better job “listening” to our marriage. I explain how I think the hole in the hallway (that we are patching) adds character to our lives, I expand on how the struggles our children go through, in the long run.. well it may be a good story to tell. And my husband listens to me.. laughs a lot.. but he listens. And when my husband wants to show me something in our mechanical room.. job, insurance, or car worries.. I follow him all the way to the basement and try to give him my full attention.
How did I know it was going to work you ask? 1 Corinthians 13:13.. There are three things that will ENDURE — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love. I knew that the marriage we built on love would endure if I had faith and hope. And I had plenty of both.