Friday, December 28, 2012

Life Story: Let No Man Put Asunder

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The goal of every Mormon couple is to be sealed in the temple. Many couples are sealed when they marry, for eternity, the first time. Because I had been married/sealed in the temple before, I had to wait until the cancellation of my sealing to my first husband. The process, we were told, could last from six months to a year. We started our paperwork as soon as we were settled into our top floor condo off of Grandview Hill.

Our first year of marriage was difficult. Christopher struggled reconciling his new life. I felt lonely a lot, perhaps never so lonely in my life. The difference between this marriage and my first one was simple, I honestly loved Christopher and the thought of him leaving was so painful it physically hurt to think about. I knew I could carry on, like I always had, but I would do so terribly wounded.

And through it all, he was sweet to me, always honest, earnest, asking for forgiveness.

I learned to give up on making things perfect. I could see that Christopher had to work out his battles with God and I stepped aside. During this first year I learned not to mention our future sealing, because the eternal side of it all would send my husband into a tailspin. I also learned quickly the first rule of any solid relationship: surrender it God.

In my surrender I was visited by grace. My life took on meaning. I woke up and ran for miles each morning, showing my body strength and fitness for the first time ever. Running was never something I dreamed I could do, much less on biting cold mornings next to the crusty Provo River.

My little sister Stephanie, and fertility wonder, had two babies within years of each other Claire and Jane. They were dropped off on our doorstep frequently for us to spoil and smother with love. Having those babies in our home filled it with noise and energy. We were the happiest when the babies were over, and loved them like they were our own offspring.

My job at the elementary school became a place of refuge. The students were delightful. I looked forward to their faces and spirits daily. This job was a comfortable fit for me. I started working in the after-school program as an assistant director. I took Spanish classes at night so I could speak with my students and their families when needed. This part of my life I soaked in, entirely. I loved my co-workers and enjoyed the retreats and parties we had together. I made life-long friends.

Our condo had a huge view of the Wasatch Front and southern exposure to the valley. A little balcony provided hours of excitement when lightening storms rolled across the mountains and out to the lake, or fireworks exploded in spurts in July. We found a lot of joy in having parties, cooking and entertaining for friends and family. We also discovered my love of decorating and his love of engineering worked well together. I came up with the ideas, he smartly implemented them.

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At church I was given a heavy assignment, I was called to serve as the Compassionate Service Leader. Our ward was made up of spectrum of lifestyles from young couples starting families to older widows sitting in quiet houses. My job was to give help where and when help was needed: meals to families with newborns, provide a family lunch for loved ones after funerals, seeing to the needs of those in distress. I was kept busy filing holes in hearts with my fellow sisters. It was a holy calling, I never felt more like my Mormon ancestors than working about the neighborhood with baskets of food.

One day I was asked to visit a woman who rarely came to church. I wasn't told much about her background, but I was warned about her intense privacy and asked not to pry. The idea was to convey our support as a neighborhood family.

I was nervous to knock on the door. It was uncomfortable for me to show up, a stranger, on a doorstep of a woman who kept herself in for a reason. It felt rude of me. But when she opened up and I stammered through an introduction, she easily let me in and asked me to sit. After that our conversation flowed like we had known each other for decades. I felt like I had the gift of tongues, I knew what to say, what to ask, how to react. I had visits like this as a missionary, but it was easy to hide behind a nametag: SOEUR CLARK, REPRESENTATIVE. This time, I was showing up as me. Incomplete, suffering me.

Her story was tragic. She had two children, one who had died suddenly at a very young age. Her grief couldn't be reconciled, even years later it weighed heavy on her heart as if it happened days ago. She woke up with it, she fell asleep with it, day after day. We cried together and that's all we did. She hugged me good bye and the next week I saw her in church, sitting in the back row, we exchanged knowing nods. I felt so much love for that woman, even in the little pieces she shared with me. I realized this must be charity, the love of Christ.

Other visits happened--the sister who had lost three sons in three different automobile accidents, the sister who lost her baby in the last trimester, the sister with a baby struggling in the NICU. As a I took each soul into my awareness, I noticed I had less room to feel sorry for myself.

In one year's time a letter arrived from Salt Lake City. It was official: I could be sealed to Christopher in the temple. This sent my husband into a panic and the pain it caused me would have to be reconciled. But I picked a date in the future, November 7th and asked him to work on it with me. He agreed.

Nothing significant happened in those four months, except the slow change of Christopher's heart. When I look back on it I can see it had nothing to do with me. It was as if God and Christopher were working things out, while I kept busy. But on November 7, 2003 we were sealed together by my Grandfather Layton Jones, surrounded by friends and family in the Provo Temple. Afterward we had a big dinner with big pots of Massaman curry and Beef Waterfall and entertainment. My husband was glowing.

I don't mean to make things seem overly-magical, but the truth is this: after we were sealed in the temple our marriage took on a strength and smoothness I never could've believed. Our relationship became a rock, not a perfect organization, but highly impenetrable and safe.

After that day I never felt lonely in my marriage again. It was a miracle.

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29 comments:

Tehmi said...

I can't wait until that letter arrives in my mailbox...

Mickelle's Minute said...

We moved away from that same complex in July 2002! So sorry we didn't cross paths, you are great. Such a refreshing perspective. I look forward to reading your blog posts everyday. I am also glad that you took such great care of the women in that ward, they were awesome!

Catherine Dabels said...

This must have been a very scary time. And after some other very scary times already. I took a deep breath at the end and I happy for you.

McEngland like the McCountry said...

Amazing how God's blessing makes all the difference. You don't have to be Mormon and sealed in the LDS church to know what a shelter/safe place/home/comfort/rock a God-designed and God-blessed marriage can be. We're Catholic and my sweet husband is the answer to many, many tearful prayers. God made him just for me and me just for him. That's not to say that it doesn't take work, but it's work we both do joyfully. I wish everybody could have this kind of marriage, it hurts my heart when people don't treasure their spouse or value their marriage. It warms my heart when I see people who feel the same way I do... Thanks for this beautiful post.

Charlotte said...

During a time when most bloggers are taking a (well-deserved probably) break, it is so fun to be able to come here each day and get a new little holiday treat. You deserve a break as well of course, but I'm really enjoying these, so I'm (selfishly?) glad that you didn't choose to take one. Love this story, love the way you write it. Thank you.

grbev said...

I love, love, love that last picture of you two. Boy, windows to the soul are deeply there in those eyes. I believe this is my most favorite picture of you two (and I have seen a lot!!). His kind and loving gaze, your cute and loving nuzzle. SWEET!

Bev (offer to make new pink skirt)

Arwen0725 said...

I loved this post! It took 5 years before we received the same letter. During that time I also grew and learned to surrender things to God. My husband and I were sealed on October 27, 2012. So while it has only been a couple of months, I sense a new strength in our relationship too.Thank you for sharing your life!

Vanessa Brown said...

That was beautiful Courtney. You are making me think of writing my own life stories, just to keep for myself privately for now.

Meg said...

So beautiful!!!

Untypically Jia said...

I love your story, it's so beautiful and real. Even the hard parts are speckled with the fingerprints of God.

emilia. said...

oh cjane, you are just lighting that hill on fire (this is what i call the candle on a hill parable).

thank you for telling us your life story, which is really just a long, gigantic love story. oh thank you.

Carrot Jello said...

I want to like this, but when you talk about your husband and how he'd go into tailspins and get nervous and cry at just the thought of marrying you, or (God forbid) being sealed to you for eternity, I want to slap him.
Either that, or shake him.
I don't understand how anyone could not fall hopelessly, completely in love with you and all you have to offer.
I have fallen out of like with your husband. I'll have to work on this.

Creole Wisdom said...

Lovely and true.

Sometimes it's not us but someone else and their issues with God.

Your writing is lovely and this was just beautiful.

I would love to hear about your relationship with Stephanie. I imagine with all that has happened it is an interesting, rich tale.

Anne said...

I am with Carrot Jello. You are a beautiful, intelligent, well-spoken, confident... whateverwhateverwhatever... woman. It makes me kind of angry that you had to suffer through Chup's indecision. I mean, I get what you're saying and everything, but what the heck was wrong with him? He's a lucky guy. And also, you are both lucky to have each other now that all the kinks of your relationship are worked out and he obviously adores you and your children.

Joey Tracy said...

Courtney, I read your blog fairly regularly and I have loved some of your posts, but I needed this post. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your life. My husband and I check the mail everyday, waiting for our letter. I appreciate the struggle it was for both of you as you made your way through your first year and the way you both used your time during the wait it is to be sealed. Your stories are certainly worth sharing because each one will reach others in ways you can't predict and, I'd guess, help you too as you share them. Thank you for fearlessly sharing yourself.

Giulia said...

This made me cry. You two are inspiring.

Delirious said...

Not to diminish the spiritual aspect of being sealed in the temple, but I do think that making that "forever" commitment really does change the way you view your marriage. When you are dating, or in your case, married civily, it is easy to back out. I do think that once you make that mental adjustment, and look at the marriage as permanent, you work harder at making the marriage work.

Holly Decker said...

wow. thats powerful. Chup's hard first year makes me feel both normal and appreciative of my spouse for hanging on through my insecurities. so glad you two are together :) man alive i am loving this life story stuff.

Harriet said...

Love these stories. Thank you for writing them. I understand the almost "sudden" change from challenge to peace, and I'm happy you guys found it.

tim coulson said...

This is so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

Kristin said...

I really did enjoy this post but my comment is directed at Delirious. Her comment just rubbed me the wrong way. I'm an active Mormon and my husband is not a Mormon at all so we are married civilly. I do not think it is easy to back out of my marriage whatsoever. I'm commited to him just as much as if we were sealed. I know that it might make certain things easier if we were and I pray that one day we will be. If not in this life than in the next. I'm sure you didn't mean to be offensive with your comment but please open your mind and persepctive before making an assumption like that. Did you not read McEngland's comment? Beautifully said.

Middle-aged Diva (Carol) said...

I, too, was amazed at how you were able to hang in there through Chup's indecision. Most people would advise a woman to leave in that situation, to have enough self-worth to walk away from that kind of inability to commit. But if you had, you'd have missed out on a lot. It's such a fine line. I would love to know what was behind his angst--you do seem like such a fun, interesting, wonderful wife--did he struggle with his faith? What was it? Maybe Chup should write his story, too! Blessings to you and your beautiful, faithful family in the new year and always.

cassidy said...

This post came to me in just the right time. I'm just preparing to be sealed to my husband and daughters and have been feeling a bit anxious. this post was an answer to my prayers. :)

KJ's Perspective Take 2 said...

I needed to read this. Thank you.

Katie said...

that picture of you two is beautiful. so much feeling.

Whimcees said...

Hello!

I love the last photo of you two - it says it all. Wishing you a Happy New Year and that 2013 brings you much joy and love.

Hugs,

Barbara Diane

Annalea said...

I'm so glad you've blogged your life story . . . and it's fun to know that you lived in the same condo complex that my DH and I lived in for the first year of our marriage. (We were the top floor, end unit back against the hill in the other building.) Small world . . . and it brings back fun memories. :o)

Johanna said...

Thanks, this was really interesting for me to read. My experience is somewhat similar to yours, but I was the nervous one, the one who was told from above that it was my choice to make. My now husband of 13 years was the patient, calm one who knew I was worth waiting for. I am just grateful he let me figure it out on my own and was there to support me while I struggled. Thanks for sharing

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