Extra Virgin :: The Christmases of Our Love Story
Last week, I said I thought we should all write down our love stories. Today, I’d like to share a bit of mine. At several points in our history, we’ve experienced a defining moment at Christmastime, and so I thought I’d write about the Christmases of our love story ::
Seven days married, we woke up on a deflated air mattress in the middle of our new rental home that was more of a construction zone than a house. Our landlord had failed to finish renovations in time and we had walked in the door after our honeymoon to find cans of paint, ladders and piles of dirt in the living room. There were no appliances, so I found a day old bagel and heated it up with my hair dryer, tore a page from my journal to craft a quick Christmas card, and took Logan breakfast in bed. We laughed at the situation, full of love and bliss and utter naivety.
We played Mary and Joseph in a Journey to Bethlehem production that brought it over 10,000 visitors. Night after night, in freezing cold weather, we sat absolutely still and thought about the fact that the last day of the production was our last day in the city. We’d been in St. Louis for a six month internship for Logan and it had been emotionally difficult. After our first venture into the real world after college, we felt paralyzed and numb to have found that life and ministry can be as full of suffering as satisfaction, and sometimes more so.
Spending the week with Logan’s family in Memphis, one night I climbed the stairs to find Logan in our bedroom, praying and struggling with the decision to go back into ministry. It would mean moving twelve hours away, making all new friends, and mustering the courage try again after failure. We stood eye to eye in that bedroom, and Logan told me he was going to do it.
A freak snowstorm in Dallas left us snowed into our house, a mere thirty miles from where all my family had gathered for the holidays. I was so disappointed, and slipped easily into a bad habit I had formed in our six years of marriage—blaming Logan for anything bad that happened, even natural disasters. We watched Friends for hours on Christmas Eve while I seethed.
I held our firstborn in my arms, wrapped in towels, as she vomitted the whole day. It was the first time I’d seen her really, truly sick, and I could barely stand it. Logan sat nearby, helpless, eager to help, as full of love for Valentine as I was. I’d wondered how our marriage would handle the transition of parenthood, and while it didn’t fix a single problem, there’s nothing more bonding than looking over the head of your child and meeting eyes with the only other person who cares as much about her as you do.
Logan accepted a position at College Heights Christian Church. Unemployed for the previous six months, we had seen God prove his great faithfulness to us by providing everything we needed during that time. People gave us money, food, housing, support, and the gracious absence of pity. Logan grabbed every opportunity handed to him, whether for part-time work or the chance to interview for a job. But more comforting than anything was the realization that God’s presence and provision is steadfast, whether we deserve it or not. Our understanding of the Gospel grew ten-fold during that time and changed our lives.
We’d just completed what we now refer to as “the best worst year of our lives.” A list of painfully difficult experiences had brought us to our knees. But in those moments, we’d been given an incredible opportunity—the chance to finally stop pretending. With the help of a really good counselor, we began to realize that even though the truth can be painful, it’s good, and enormously to be preferred to the bliss of ignorance. Committed to being our most real selves with both God and each other, the Lord carefully led us, changed us, and comforted us during that year. We spent Christmas Day alone, just the three of us, and in the quiet and peace of those moments, we had never been happier.