In just a few days another year will come to an end. As I get older I feel like the years fly by quicker and quicker. 2016 has been quite the year for the Carlson's. It was full of adventures, celebrations, travel and some major milestones. As my kids get older I feel that life becomes even more fun and exciting. I love seeing them begin new chapters of their lives and move into adulthood.
We started the year helping Christian begin a new chapter in pursuing his degree in ministry at Cincinnati Christian University. He received an athletic scholarship to be part of their first ever football program.
Not long after moving Christian into the dorms, Noah signed his letter of intent to attend CCU as well. I loved that they chose to attend the same school and play on the same football team together.
In February, Rich was able to reconnect with his daughter Amanda. We flew her out to meet the family and to begin the rebuilding of her relationship with her Dad. She was able to visit again in July and October.
I was scrolling through my Kindle app the other day looking for a book to read. I came across a book that I had downloaded but never read. The title of the book was "Jesus in the Mirror: Live a Life that Truly Reflects Him." In the introduction the authors were talking about how some Christians were perceived by unbelievers. They used the acronym J.A.M.E.S. to refer to the "Christians" who leave a lasting negative impression on those around them. People who are Judgmental, Arrogant, Mean-spirited, Exclusive and Self-righteous.
Unfortunately most of us know too many Christians who behave in a manner
Last month was our 21st Anniversary. It fell on a Sunday this year so we spent the morning at church followed by lunch with the family. The boys were home from college, so it was a little more special than usual.
I created a little slideshow of some photos of us over the years. Photos full of smiles and happy times. Photos that show how our family has grown. Photos of special milestones that we have celebrated. Behind those smiles is a story.....a story of love, struggles, adventures, hardship and perseverance.
We have celebrated the births of our children and job promotions. We have endured job losses and multiple moves. We have suffered loss and heartbreak. We have persevered through homelessness and medical issues. We have been overjoyed at the salvation of each of our children and heartbroken at some of their choices. We have welcomed strangers into hour home that we now consider family. We have been on the brink of separation and divorce more than once.
You see, our story didn't begin with a big ceremony and celebration with our families. There was no wedding party and no blessing of our union. Our story began with two people who were looking for love and acceptance. Two people who came from very different backgrounds. Two people who'd had big plans and dreams that didn't work out the way they'd wanted. Two people who were stubborn and rebellious and not interested in seeking God's direction. You can only imagine how well that worked for us.
I was so desperate for love that I didn't want to do anything to upset my husband. I stuffed my feelings and my opinions down deep inside. I thought that was the way to be a good wife. I refused to use my voice and so I lost it for many years. I had a very unhealthy view of what a marriage was supposed to be like. With the help of God's Word, counsellors and godly women in my life, I have learned the importance of my voice in my marriage and in my husband's life.
My husband was also desperate for love and acceptance but his fear of losing it caused him to see control as love. He was afraid that it was only a matter of time before I left him. He had felt abandoned by family and heartbroken by a divorce and separation from his two young daughters. He had an unhealthy view of what marriage was supposed to be like.
After 20+ years of doing life together, we have learned what a healthy marriage is suppose to be like. We have not been successful in putting everything that we have learned into practice. We are definitely still works in progress. It can be easy to revert to our old habits and ways of communicating.
We have friends who are great mentors and examples of what it means to speak truth with love and to love without controlling. They have walked along side of us during some really tough times and encouraged us to not give up.
I think that's why I love all the photos from the past. They have a story to tell. It's a deeper story than a party or holiday gathering. Each photo is a window into the past. They bring with them an array of emotions and memories. They are proof that no matter what came our way, we didn't give up on each other.
As each year passes and new photos are added to the slideshow of our marriage, I will look behind the smiles and see the story of our life.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.