The blur of color that swept in and out of my kitchen was my husband, who came home from work, dropped off his bag, and grabbed half my children and ran back out the door.
“I need to go get something!” he yelled over his shoulder.
About thirty minutes later, Chris and two fourths of our kiddos returned.
“Happy Anniversary!” He handed me a dozen white carnations. And my daughter, who had selected them, beamed from the doorway. She watched as my prince charming kissed me.
And moments later he was gone. Riding off on his white stallion (okay, in a white Ford sedan).
I displayed my bouquet on the mantle, then cleaned up the meal I made, and started organizing kids to put away the piles of clean clothes that covered our living room furniture. I geared up to put four kids to bed by myself, and then eat my cold dinner… alone.
Happy anniversary, babe.
This is my life. And that’s my prince. Some days I see more of him riding off rather than his handsome face. The fairy tales don’t talk about that though - they’re no stories about the ordinary days of married life.
And most days are just that… ordinary. There’s the grind of routine and fulfilling obligations. Life is mundane and can be downright boring. So, when my friends asked me, “how was your anniversary!?” I had a plain answer. “It was okay.”
Because that’s what it was… okay.
In a world filled with images of grandness, exciting experiences, and “the best” scenarios - it sometimes hurts to be ordinary. It can even feel embarrassing to be “just okay.”
But why can’t I just be okay, with just being okay?
It’s taken many years, nine years to be exact, to finally be comfortable with this question. Today, I choose to not compare myself to the glimpses I see or hear about from other people’s lives. Rather, I choose to embrace the okay-ness of my life, even when my marriage and parenting seem humdrum.
I allow others to see my many imperfections. And I have accepted it’s okay to be extraordinarily ordinary. I choose to celebrate the small victories, ones only I notice and appreciate. Like a husband who empties the dishwasher and sink every single morning. Or perhaps a child who says please and thank you without being prompted. Or a prayer request only I hold close and see granted.
On my ninth anniversary I went to bed early, and hours later Chris crawled in bed next to me. He'd had a meeting at church that evening, and I was exhausted from being a single mom. But, it was all okay.
“I love falling asleep next to you. Happy anniversary,” he said and squeezed my hand tight.
That was it. This is how I will remember the ninth year anniversary of the day we exchanged vows, promising to love one another “for better or worse”.
Because after nine years of marriage, I love this man more now than I did on our wedding day. (And I really really like him, too!) I am thankful that on hard days or boring days or emotionally exhausting days - we can give each other a fist bump before falling asleep, and we can rest in the security of our marriage and God’s faithful protection.
We’re living out the mission God has bestowed on us - even if, at times, it’s not exciting.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10 NIV
I find comfort in the gospels about Jesus, who lived an ordinary life but performed extraordinary deeds and taught extraordinary lessons, was okay not being recognized. In fact, he often told those He healed to "tell no one about this."
He wished to serve without receiving credit for it - in fact in some ways he “ran from it”, moving from town to town performing miracles. He only wished to do His Father’s will. And that’s exactly what Chris and I want as well. (See Mark 1:40-45 NLV).
Chris and I are just living out this mission, our Father’s will. We’re living out the sacrament of marriage - to love each other “in good times and in bad”, and in “okay” times too.
All the while, our children are watching us, seeing how we respond to the Father’s call.
Just like my sweet girl watched as her daddy gifted his wife simple carnations and a kiss. I know she felt the security of a husband’s love for his bride - her daddy’s love for her mommy.
She felt the security of God’s love because she has our marriage as her sturdy shelter.
“Keep investing where no one’s applauding, when nothing seems productive and beyond what we can manage. Sons and daughters are formed day by day, little by little, shaped by everyday conversations and choices that seem insignificant. Invest in gratitude, joy and that’s purchased by the grace of God. Because money, time and circumstances will never touch that. What remains when the last diapers are gone and the laundry subsides is this: Who they’re becoming has everything to do with God’s faithfulness in both of us and so little to do with how much we nailed parenthood.” (Ruth Chou Simons, Gracelaced, Instagram)
Be encouraged, dear friends! You’re raising future saints and digging in even when it hurts and sitting in the messiness. Run to the Lord during times that seem impossible and rest in His protection when you have no more fight in you.
For all you who are weary and fighting this good fight - who are pouring into your marriages, even if you feel at times is futile or unreciprocated - keep going, keep loving, keeping tilling.
And to all who are living an okay-life, investing where no one is applauding… you got this. We’re living out our mission right alongside you. Happy anniversary to all married couples who are living out their missions - no matter how grand or simple.
And to Chris, thanks for my carnations and your love.