Chronic Illness and Marriage | Seven MonthsToday marks seven months of marriage to my best friend- seven beautiful, wonderful, difficult, happy, blessed months. God has used each one of them to teach us and to draw us nearer to Himself.

To commemorate the occasion, I thought I’d go ahead and share some things I’ve been pondering the past few weeks. Be prepared for some long-winded rambling and storytelling!

I can’t begin to express how thankful I am to the Lord for Benj. We’ve struggled through a lot of hard days together during our short married life, though not so much because we’ve needed to learn how to get along better. (Of course, there’s always room for improvement!)

No, I think marriage has felt like the most natural transition in the world to us both since the moment we said “I do”. Perhaps it’s because we’re fairly easy going by nature, happy to defer to the other in most cases. I could probably count our larger quibbles on both hands, even from the start of our relationship nearly two years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, though. We don’t sweep problems under the rug or try to pretend they don’t exist simply to keep the peace. We just normally have an easy time working through difficulties and obstacles together.

What makes me laugh, though, is that we think so similarly that there rarely ever seems to be anything to argue about. That may change in future years, but I’m rather hoping it doesn’t.

On the other hand, good conflict resolution is one thing I’ve always noticed that helps to bind couples together. Resolving disagreements in a loving, forgiving, Christ-honoring way is important. It acts as a sort of sticky glue.

Benj and I both fail (a lot), and sometimes our selfishness gets the better of us. But learning to humble ourselves, repent, and ask for forgiveness without hesitation has helped us to maintain the tenderness and sweetness our marriage started out with.

You see, I’m convinced that the Lord knew this would be the case and planned to use a different kind of glue to help stick us together. This particular glue had the word “suffering” written on the label.

Chronic Illness and Marriage | Seven MonthsPerils of Ice Skating

Allow me to rewind to two days after Benj’s very first visit almost two years ago. Thanks to some terribly rough ice, I managed to fall while ice skating, land squarely on my left knee and right hip. I ended up being unable to walk for two whole months.

Yes, I know I’m gifted, and no, I never plan to go ice skating again, thankyouverymuch.

There were many painful days with my leg propped up, and many sleepless nights when I could barely move. Through it all, though, Benj was a huge encouragement. The Lord used that incident to sanctify me and to draw us together.

Benj had recently experienced a similar, though far worse, knee injury from skiing. (Just say “no” to winter sports, guys. Seriously.) It really helped to have someone I could talk to who knew what I was going through and would point me to Christ when I was sorely tempted toward self-pity. Up until that point, it was the most physically frustrating experience of my life, but I had no idea what was to follow just a few weeks after I recovered.

Chronic Illness Appears

In May of 2014 I started experiencing a lot of chronic health issues that haven’t gone away since. Despite everything I’ve done to heal myself, God has not yet chosen to heal me. I’ve tried all manner of supplements, different healthy diets, 3 different doctors and too many doctor visits, lab tests, and the list goes on. You name it, I’ve probably tried it.

I’ve had lots of ups and downs and varied symptoms over the past 20+ months, but still no diagnosis. Through it all, Benj has stuck with me.

Steadfast Love

Before I even saw the first doctor and had no clue what was wrong, Benj was by my side (though 2,000 miles away), praying me through. When I lacked energy just to get through the day, Benj was only a phone or video call away, ready to encourage my faltering heart and to point me upward.

When I was having an especially bad week, Benj would find ways to make me smile and feel loved, like sending gorgeous floral arrangements to my door. (The delivery guy and I were practically on a first name basis by the time the wedding rolled around!)

When I was tempted to feel crushed by the weight of my struggles and pain, Benj would encourage me not to give up. He would send me Scripture after Scripture, reminding me of who I am, who God is, and how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

Benj never gave up on me. He never told me I was wimpy or weak and never let me feel alone. He could have easily backed out of our relationship because my illness wasn’t what he had signed up for. I wouldn’t have faulted him for it!

But he didn’t.

Instead, he stuck with me, never wavering, never letting go, and always giving me glimpses of how hard he would work to later fulfill our marriage vows.

Chronic Illness and Marriage | Seven MonthsMarried Life

Fast forward through our wedding and honeymoon to Benj and I settling into our new apartment, our first little home. I was so excited!

You see, all my life I’d dreamed about how these first months of marriage would go. I was going to be the bride who did everything just so. My thank you notes would be out in a matter of weeks. I’d have a cozy home set up in no time. I’d be up early to make my husband breakfast, and dinner would be planned out ahead of time.

Quite a few people told me I’d get bored because there were only so many times I could clean my small apartment. They said I’d run out of things to do pretty quickly.

Right. Let’s just say that God had other plans.

My thank you notes are still being finished, which is holding up some of last month’s Christmas cards. There are still a thousand things I want to do to furnish our apartment and make it feel homey.

Many days, I’m unable to get up before 9:00 or even 10:00 without feeling poorly, which obviously means Benj’s breakfast hour is long gone. Dinner is often an afterthought and I normally still need Benj’s help to some degree. Usually, at least one room in our apartment needs a good cleaning, and often more than just one.

That’s the honest truth, y’all. It’s almost embarrassing to admit all of those things, but I want to be open and honest in the hope that I’m able to encourage someone. I know I’m not the only one struggling with chronic illness.

Letting Go

In all of this, I’m learning to let go of what I want for my life and learning to embrace what the Lord has for me instead. It’s not easy sometimes feeling like a complete failure in my role as a wife.

I know how much I’m capable of when I’m feeling well, so it’s beyond hard when I feel like a mere shell of myself. Good days give me glimpses of hope and help me to remember who I am. Bad days almost keep me from recognizing the girl in the mirror. It feels like there’s a stranger with disheveled hair, puffy eyes, and an achy, muddled head looking back at me through a cloud of dense fog.

Who is she?

Chronic Illness and Marriage | Seven Months

He Loves Me

On my worst days, when I’m dogged with pain and feel like giving up, Benj comes close, presses his nose and forehead up against mine, and tells me words I know he truly means.

“I’m so glad I married you.”

“I love you.”

“You’re not a failure, and I never want you to feel that way.”

“Don’t give up. We’re going to get you better.”

When I feel like I’m at my breaking point, he’s there for me, reminding me that he loves me no matter what.

Even when I’m stuck in pajamas all day, even when I can’t muster up the energy to do basic household chores, even when I end up being the cause of canceled plans, he loves me just the same.

I’ll probably write an entirely separate post regarding chronic illness someday. But I wanted to write about it today because it helps me to highlight how truly thankful I am for my sweet husband.

He takes incredible care of me and tenderly dotes on me. He’s never once complained about how much extra work my chronic illness is on him. He always tries to make my workload lighter.

I often feel like I don’t deserve him, and tell him so, but he always tells me it’s the other way around. You and I know better, though. He really is the best.

Chronic Illness and Marriage | Seven Months

You Never Suffer Alone

There’s so much more that I could say, but I’ll go ahead and wrap this up. Ladies, if you aren’t married yet, look for a man who will suffer with you. Find a man who believes that trials come from the hand of God.

There will be suffering in this life. Everyone experiences varying degrees and types of it at one point or another. I couldn’t imagine going through these trials without a man who trusts the Lord and prays faithfully for our little family.

Someday, we’ll live in Heaven where there will be no more pain or tears. Until then, we have to trust God’s plan for our lives. We have to follow Him, believing that He’s using our suffering for our sanctification. There is so much joy and freedom that comes from trusting the Lord!

Benj and I still have plenty of growing to do, and God continues to be very good. I am very thankful that He has continued to reveal Himself to us more and more as we walk this road together. Marriage is a wonderful gift!

Happy seven months, babe! I love you.