If you’ve been married for more than a minute, today’s “Tell Me More Tuesday” is one that will resonate with you…and tug at your heartstrings. My dear friend Jill Odell shares her story of finding her relationship with her husband at a roadblock that had been created over time, and the vulnerable lane-change she decided to make to keep moving forward. Much like Jill herself, her story is full of wit, wisdom, and complete honesty. Thanks so much for sharing, Jill!
Have you ever heard old one-liners about minding your own business? Keep your eyes on your own test? You do you?
My grandma, Kit, had nine children…she was so busy that she rarely had time to care, much less judge, what others around her were doing or how they were living their lives. My favorite lesson from her is to “sweep the dirt from your own front porch.” I can hear her saying it at many times when I want to get caught up in the goings-on of middle American housewifery and child-rearing. It rings in my ears and resounds in my heart always reminding me not to judge, for I have plenty to “sweep from my own front porch.”
I have been married for almost 17 years to my husband, David. We have three healthy and hilarious children who keep us laughing and screaming loud enough for neighbors to hear from “our front porch.”
I want to preface the rest of this entry by warning you that I’m going to get a bit Jesus-freaky and if that’s not your thing, it’s totally ok…you do you. However, maybe my story will at least entertain you for a bit.
My husband and I were introduced when we were in college by my sister-in-law and the story of our first date is an incredible gas, but that’s maybe for a different entry (or you can feel free to ask me if we ever meet). We dated for a few months and I realized pretty quickly that he’s the yin to my yang. He’s very stable, reasonable, dependable, faithful, and hard-working. I am a bit more of a free-spirited dreamer (read: adult usually failing to hide a 12-year-old’s maturity level always getting punch-drunk on the most hilarious of stupid things). My heart swings wide and crazy and his swings gently and steadily…but when we meet in the middle, there’s magic–case in point: our kids.
A few years ago, we had reached a point in our marriage when David was working longer and longer hours trying to grow his business and I was feeling trapped and unappreciated at work and at home with the three kids. This went on for a few years, growing worse and leading our hears further and further away from each other. My resentment for him grew daily (sometimes hourly on the really long days) and my bitterness towards what I felt was a lack of appreciation for my contributions built a bomb that ticked and threatened to blow up the whole operation.
Our fighting increased when he was home and the bomb continued to tick, louder and louder. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize the threat level we were reaching as we stepped closer and closer to separation and divorce. “We didn’t really have BIG problems…like alcoholism or abuse or infidelity….I’m not sure I could get over those” is what I thought. I didn’t realize that I was comparing myself to what I thought was the worst……..and inadvertently stopped sweeping the dirt from my own front porch, and, Boy, was it getting messy.
I remember starting by praying. I prayed and I prayed. Not much seemed to change. I would wait til the kids went to school and I’d climb up to a space I created for my quiet times in prayer by myself and I would pray for God to change him. I begged and pleaded, day after day, for God to change David…to make him appreciate me more, to make him work less, to make him contribute more face time to the family.
And then one day, in total exasperation, I sat in my space and very self-righteously asked God to change ME. It was almost a dare at first…fist raised into the air, pissed off that my prayers hadn’t been answered (so I felt), daring God to TRY ME!!! I kept on with that prayer, though. Days and weeks seemed to pass and I said the same prayer almost as a mantra at times: “Lord, just change ME.”
My prayer, though, miraculously went from a unruly and immature toddler-like prayer with arms akimbo daring God to change me, to a defeated and sad woman honestly wanting to give up on prayer and marriage, and eventually to an honest and almost crippling cry out to God to “change ME, change my heart!!! No matter what comes of David and whatever You might do to his heart…change ME!”
Now, I know enough about sweeping the dirt from my own front porch to know that this is just MY story. Everyone has a story and they’re all flawed and beautiful and not a one of them is finished until the end. And while some stories don’t end with a family intact the way it was originally imagined, I believe God has a plan for that story, too. That story isn’t over yet, either.
My story ended in the most glorious of ways. Time after time, I prayed, “Lord, change me.” And He DID! And He continues to do so. And in my changes, David changed, my children changed, my whole life realigned differently.
David and I sought marital counseling, I prayed (A LOT), we leaned on some really supportive and loving friends and family…and then I prayed some more. I continue to do so…all day, everyday: “Change me, Lord.” But now I do it with humility and trust that He not just will…but IS changing me.
A few years after we turned a marital corner, David and I got away to a trip to Mexico for the first time. I got a passport at 37-years-old!!! We laid in a hammock together one breezy afternoon feeling the air come across the ocean, tasting the salt in the air and the sweetness of free drinks. David, who is my stable and faithful “yin” is not a super demonstrative or emotional man. But there, lying together in that beachfront hammock and not caring that our sweaty arms and legs were intertwined and sticky, he looked me deep in the eyes. When I thought it was weird enough, I said “what?!?!” Then he just stopped and quietly whispered, “I didn’t even know I could love you like this.”
Needless to say, by this point, we are still married and are still navigating the teenage years with our three cherubs. We still fight, and when we’re weak sometimes we act in the ways we used to. But when that happens, one of us usually recognizes that someone’s not sweeping! We’ve got some dirt here on our own front porch and regardless of what people are saying, doing, buying, or selling around us, we’ve got some work to do…together…asking God to change us.
Thank you, Grandma Kit, for your wisdom of 81 years, a marriage of 57, nine children, 35 grandkids and a rich life that taught us all to “sweep the dirt from our own front porch.”
Jill Odell is a wife to David, mother to Josh (14), Hayden (14) and Kate (10), and lives in Lee’s Summit, MO. She has been a pediatric surgical nurse at the children’s hospital in Kansas City for almost 19 years. She is a registered Holy Yoga instructor who teaches classes around the area. Feel free to check out her bio, contact her, or attend a class by searching her webpage at holyyogabyjill.com
Have you experienced a road block or two in your marriage? What have you learned from those experiences? Feel free to post your comments about your own marriage insights here, and/or if Jill’s story resonated with you, please be sure to leave a comment and let her know!