the good road

I went to the most beautiful wedding this weekend.

My sweet cousin Brooke, the baby of all of us, married Trenton, who’s so obviously the love of her life, in a full-on liturgical service in a gorgeous church in Atlanta.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again, we proclaimed together as a congregation after they’d pledged their love and their whole selves to each other, and then we knelt at the altar as the bride and groom graciously and humbly served us bread and wine with the ministers there.

What a lovely way to begin a marriage.

After, at the reception, I had a moment while they were dancing their first dance, their faces shining with freshly-wedded bliss, the song that Trenton wrote for his proposal to Brooke playing precious over the sound system. I don’t know what to call it, perspective or wisdom or experience or what, but it was this feeling of knowing, a feeling of what was to come.

It’s not that I can see into the future, particularly theirs; I have no fortune teller’s eyes. I make no claims as an expert on marital satisfaction, but martial satisfaction isn’t what it was about. It’s just in that moment, I felt so strongly the breadth and depth and height of what marriage is, what the future of a life lived together looks like. How the blissed-out wedding faces fade into something much more neutral, wedding dresses traded in for well-worn and well-washed sweats, magical moments coming less and less frequently over the years.

And yet.

The spark doesn’t ever completely leave. The magic still peeks its head out once in a while, and the mundane, which is so beautiful and so perfect in and of itself, fades into the background as you glimpse the past, that moment when you fell in love, the person you fell in love with. The heels slip on and the baubles come out and the ties are tightened and the flowers are bought and you feel the love of your youth as you gaze at the beauty of them. Or maybe it’s not even that complicated or fancy, maybe it’s the music of a song that sends you whirling back years into an old, cheap apartment and he’s dancing and you’ve never remembered feeling so happy in your life.

It’ll be nine years married for us this year, Mark and I, and I am so thankful for what our life looks like. I’m sitting on my porch right now, writing this while swinging in a very old swing, looking out over a planter-full of pink-headed begonias onto our pretty little  street in our beloved neighborhood that we’ve called home for three years now. I’m living exactly the life I want to live right now, and I’m so grateful – how many people can truly say that?

It’s not always been so easy, though, and sometimes I forget. Years before now, we’ve struggled through days of miserable jobs, of small paychecks, of dingy apartments, of depression. Two whole years that I barely remember because I was working nights and living on negligible sleep. Fight after fight when I wondered (and sometimes wonder still) How in the hell does your brain even work?? Years of figuring out how to speak each others’ entirely different languages.

There’s something to be said, though, about having a partner to share the trenches with. There are days I don’t know what I’d do without Mark – the time he called my parents to warn them of an imminent tornado, and dropped everything to drive to Ooltewah after their neighborhood was hit. The evening he drove me to the emergency room just so I could get a bag of IV fluids so I might have a chance of singing at my best friend’s wedding two days later.

There are days I’m sure he feels the same about me – the week I stayed with his mom after she came home from the hospital post-stem cell transplant, all those nights of proofing grad school papers I barely understood.

It’s not always pretty, marriage. It’s not a package wrapped neatly in a nice bow, and honestly the beauty of a wedding isn’t always so reflective of what marriage actually looks like. It’s work. It’s sacrifice, it’s giving of yourself, it’s talking when you don’t want to talk and shutting up when you don’t want to do that, either. It’s broken dishwashers and busted hot water heaters and leaky roofs and dogs who like to run away and figuring out how to sleep through some intense snoring and getting annoyed because maybe some of us talk too loudly when we’re on the phone, but then again some people don’t like to eat stale food and someone needs to learn how to use a bag clip, thankyouverymuch.

But it’s also receiving. It’s being given the most wonderful gifts of love and security and home, it’s a smile and a hug every day when you come home, it’s laughing over the most ridiculous things until your stomach physically hurts. It’s the way you can know the nooks and crannies of another body almost as well or even better than you know your own. It’s the joy of accomplishing a task with someone else, a garden planted or a wall built or a room painted. It’s tiny things, like a movie night at home or ice cream shared on a glorious summer afternoon, and it’s momentous things, like the purchasing of a home or the birth of a child.

It’s a lot to be encompassed into one big feeling, which is why it threatened to spill out of my chest while Brooke and Trenton were dancing, his clear tenor intoning My Love, filling the room with music and his guests’ eyes with tears. It was overwhelmingly strong, that moment I had watching them dance into their new beginning, onto that well-trodden road that I’ve been down, that others around me, including my parents and Mark’s, have been down farther still.

It’s a good road to walk.

I hope that sometime Brooke and Trenton read these words and are excited, thrilled about the ride. I hope their marriage is filled with love and trust and understanding and loyalty with a good bit of humor thrown in. I hope they love being married as much as Mark and I do.

And most of all, I hope they find beauty in the mess of each other, and that together, they’re made even more perfectly whole.

Happy Marriage, my sweet cousin! What a beautiful journey you’ve just begun.

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