charlie's song

Reflections on Marriage…After the Hardest Year of Our Lives

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Today, we celebrate seven years of marriage.  Seven years of more adventures, more babies, more joys, and more heartache, than I ever could have conceived of when we said “I do” on that brilliant June day.

But even if God would tell us all that He has in store for our lives…would we really want to know all that anyways?  Could we even handle the knowing?  Would it help us to take heart and to walk in greater faith?  Or would it cause our hearts to break?

It’s funny, because in some ways…God did tell us.  He did kind of tell us what was in store for our marriage, by the things we vowed on our wedding day.

We chose very traditional vows for our ceremony.  Things tried and true.  Things simple and packed with meaning.  Things we could actually…remember. We didn’t want to make a bunch of rambling promises that we couldn’t even recall to mind, let alone keep.

And some of our vows come to my mind almost daily.  I do promise, and covenant before God and these witnesses, to be thy loving and faithful wife.  Am I actually being loving? Am I actually being faithful?  These questions can, and do, and should come up almost daily in my mind.  They are after all, why promises are made.

Because there is beauty and life and freedom…in the keeping.

Other promises we made at our wedding, do not come up daily.  They come up in the rare, (ok, not so rare in my case) moments when I’m in a hospital room, or struck by one of my many bizarre ailments and disease.  In our brief seven years of marriage, Reid has walked with me through viral menengitis, shingles, campliobacteriosis, NINE spinal taps, and most of all…the birth of each one of our precious babies.  It’s been a WILD ride to say the least.

And then there are those promises made that come up only, it seems, once or twice in a lifetime.  Those moments when you look into the eyes of the person you love most and realize you are knee-deep in a moment which holds, at once, ALL of the hardest things you vowed to love one another through on your wedding day.

Moments…like the night we gave birth to our precious Charlie.

For better or for worse.  In so many ways, the worst and hardest moment of our entire lives.

For richer or for poorer.  We had never felt so poor, so broken, so helpless, and so needy in our entire lives.

In sickness and in health.   I am convinced that there is no more physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally anguishing moment in life…than giving birth to a baby who has already died. I can’t even think about this day of our life, without weeping now, even as I type.

And yet, when I think about our vows…those bright and bold words promised in the height of love at a wedding ceremony…Charlie’s birth is the FIRST thing that comes to my mind. Because moments like Charlie’s birthday are the meaning of marriage.

The meaning of marriage is to glorify Christ.  To show, in the love between two people who love and are loved by God, how tenderly Christ loves His bride all the way through this messy, broken, miserable life.  And perhaps, more than any moment of our lives…the nurses and doctors saw this…as they watched Reid carry me that night.  As they watched us love Charlie…this little person whom OUR LOVE had MADE.  As they watched us love one another through the unspeakable sorrow of having to say goodbye to a baby we had so desperately wanted to keep.  This…is marriage.

And because marriage is meant to reflect Christ…I am convinced that marriage is also meant to reveal His suffering.  Reid and I are best friends.  We have more fun, more laughter, and more adventures than most couples I know.  We also have lots of suffering. It’s been seven years of learning to be long suffering with one another in the messy, unfinished places in each of our lives.  It’s been seven years of many moments of suffering because of one another at times.  If you truly love someone…their sin will be your pain.

And it’s been seven years of suffering alongside one another.   After the hardest year of our lives I have seen almost daily how Christ weeps over His broken and bleeding Bride.  One night, at one of the lowest moments of my grief, I turned to Reid and asked him in all sincerity, “What if I don’t make it?  What if I don’t get to the end of this suffering still believing in and loving Christ?”  And without a moments hesitation Reid looked at me and said, “Then I will still be your husband and you will still be my wife.  And I will still love you more than anything and pray for you constantly.”   This…is marriage.

Usually, I’m filled with excitement on our anniversary.  Excitement that another mysterious, exciting new year awaits.  But this year, all can do is look back, and to sit in the precious reality that we actually survived.  We did it.  We made it through the seventh year of our marriage.  Some people go through 60 years of marriage and don’t experience this much suffering.  And I’m absolutely convinced that the only reason we made it…is because of Christ.  Christ in us.  Christ in between us.  Christ carrying us.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I am also convinced on this anniversary that I have been given an incredible gift in the person God gave me to “get through” this life.  Even when our souls were so ravaged and the brokenness so deep that the getting through…meant simply surviving to the next day.  The point is…we survived.  We, who’ve been given to one another to “get through this life”…got through another year of it together.  This is marriage.

I am so very thankful for you Reid Zeller.

We…have had it tough. And the road has been so incredibly bumpy and rough.  But it has been the greatest joy of my life to journey together.  Life with you has been full of adventures. Lizard infested hikes.  Hotel rooms crawling with poisionous scorpions and C.O.U.S. (That’s short for Centepedes of Unusual Size.)  Hospital rooms filled with unimaginable sorrow and anguish.  And days filled with children…children we’ve watched take over our lives, our hearts, and our dreams in the most beautiful and breathtaking ways.

Our life together has taught me that this bittersweet journey isn’t really so much about the journey after all…it’s about the destination really.  And we’ve been destined for Eternity. Thank you for reminding me that a Destination awaits.  Thank you for journeying with me in the meantime.  Thank you for the many times you actually just picked me up and outright carried me.  Thank you for reminding me of the One we made our vows to, and for showing me His deep, unwavering love for His broken Bride.  And thanks for being my exit buddy as we ride each wave through this wild, glorious, messy life to the Place where we’ll finally get to meet our baby boy.

And just in case we do have the privilege of sitting on that park bench at ninety, and we’re no longer able to remember very much of this crazy ride…here’s my seven most memorable moments of our journey to date…

1.  The day we hitchhiked through Italy, met an angel, and had the best dinner of our lives.

2.  The night Emma was born…and we saw, for the very first time, someone our love had MADE.

3.  Battling foot-long centepedes, snorkeling Trestles, and our two hammocks by the bay.

4.  Every single time we found out God had given us a new baby to love. Every. Single. Time. (Sophie’s especially comes to mind. I guess all those baby pickles, baby goldfish, baby carrots, and mini Oreos I bought didn’t really communicate clearly enough that we were having a baby…)

5.  That time the sun shone during our stroll along the Seine.

6.  The moment when I was in the ER and we realized it was very possible that this was “goodbye” for you and me.

7.   Charlie’s birth. And all of the days we have walked as one through the hardest journey of our lives.  I never knew what it truly meant to be one heart in two separate bodies.  Now, I do.  Thanks for sharing a heart with me.

If we had to do our “first dance” over again…this, of course, would be our song.

You’re no longer alone.
We’ve found a space to name our own.
There aint no need to fret or fuss.
We’ve got all the strength we need in the shape of us.

And I know you’ve had it tough.
Your road’s been bumpy and rough.
But say goodbye to a world that you once knew.
I have every faith in me and you.

Hold my hand.
Hold my heart.
Let go your fear.
Darling I will always be here.

I never felt quite so at home.
Your sweet caress is the best I’ve known.
Now that I’ve proved to you that I’m worthy of your trust.
Let us build a world in the shape of us.

I love you Reid Zeller…and I am immeasurably thankful for God’s great kindness to us over these last seven years.  I have loved building a world in the shape of us.

Yours Until Death Do Us Part,



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