I am BEYOND excited to have a special guest contribution from the magnificent Danielle Paxton. Having been married for over 19 wonderful years, this amazing couple has been making history and raising three beautiful daughters. Cory shared some powerful thoughts of his own which I captured in a prior blog. Here is Danielle’s answer the following question when we took these family portraits: If I could travel back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I tell my younger self before I was married?
I actually sat down to write this same article about 6 months ago, but in that time my answer has changed dramatically. No doubt that change has come as a result of the many unexpected twists and turns this year has brought, as well as from the time we have spent in counseling this year. We’ve been married almost 16 years now and have learned a lot of helpful skills, but the underlying issues that pressed in on me have corrupted all of these wonderful skills.
My story is not one of needing to simply communicate better, or make intentional time together, or use appropriate “I” statements. It’s a story of the bigger issues, the deeper ones that bubble up into everything. In my 39 years I’ve come to the bottom of my barrel and looked up, unable to save myself and ready to face all the truth I’ve never wanted to.
Josiah asked me to write an article on marriage, and I secretly wish I had some nice, well-packaged advice. But I just don’t. For me, making marriage successful has been learning to trust, learning to stop pretending, and learning to speak the truth in love.
If I could go back and tell my sweet, scared-to-death, about-to-be-married 23-year-old self, I would say this: Let go of all the perfect you think you have to be and trust God to give you all the things you really need.
You think you have to always be pretty. But you don’t. It’s okay that you look really different without your makeup on. You can still go to the store clean-faced. God will teach you that people don’t like you for your mascara and eyeliner – they like you for you.
You think you have to make gourmet meals for your husband every single night. Except you don’t actually know how to cook a gourmet meal and that’s okay. You guys will figure out how to get food even if it means you have to go to Wendy’s. Or worse – your husband can cook the food! God will teach you to enjoy how your husband takes care of you even if it involves a Foreman Grill.
You think you have to have it all together – and have all of HIS stuff together, too. You think you have to be the All-Stuff-Haver and make sure it’s all in order and everyone is happy with how together you have all the stuff. Except you don’t. Your husband can keep his own stuff together. He’s a big boy now. God will help you enjoy your husband’s flaws and, eventually, your own.
You think people will find you disgusting if they get to know you, so you hang on the fringes of life. Let go of that lie and go towards people when you feel that sick panic rise up in you. God will cover you in His grace and He will use His people to speak life over these dark places in you. You really can trust Him; He made you to be a wonderful part of His world.
Younger Me, pretending begets more pretending until you run out of space. Trust is scary but pretending is even worse. Trust God, trust your husband, and you will say true things with love because you’re not full of resentful pretending. Trust me, the future You – it’s the better way.
One Amazing Couple
I was lucky enough to venture into the desert with two of my favorite people of all time for a very special romantic anniversary session. This couple has already celebrated 41 years of marriage and I have a feeling some of their best adventures are yet to come. Anyone who knows David and Tracey will tell you they are a true joy – they’re loving, caring, creative, innovative, and knowing them will probably change your life. On this particular day, Tracey and David braved into a secret desert marsh only to discover thousands of mosquitoes! Yep, that’s right! This fantastic couple took all these super cute photographs in the middle of a mosquito infestation!!
Three Amazing Observations
What impresses me most about this couple is how they live their lives every single day. Their forty-one years of marriage is no accident; it is the beautiful outworking of faith and intention. I have learned much by watching their relationship and hope to emulate their example someday. Here are the three biggest things I have learned.
Faith is the ultimate glue. Even though they are very different from each other, Tracey and David let their relationship with Jesus unite them through it all. This allows them to treasure the uniqueness that is their partner.
It takes commitment and communication. I love when Tracy and David share stories of how they have grown, persevered, and grown some more. It is clear that a fulfilling marriage is not for the faint of heart but it is worth every bit of effort.
The most fulfilling way to live your life is to find really special and creative ways to give of yourself to others. The way Tracey & David opened their home during my college days will always stick with me. I remember hanging out in their kitchen throughout the day and watching all sorts of wonderful and interesting individuals come in just like guest stars on an episode of Friends, How I Met Your Mother, or Cheers. All were welcomed and would usually encounter some manner of food, games, or mentoring (and often all three at the same time). Their open house policy never ceases to amaze me and I have watched the richness of their lives grow because of it.
As a bonus I’ve noticed that they love their life and live it to the fullest. It is important to laugh a lot and have some good fun along the way!!
Tracey and Dave, you already know that you are a true joy and inspiration to me and my life. I hope you love these photographs – may they remind you of the special gift that you have in each other and the rich love you feel for each other every day. Here is to all the wonderful adventures that lie ahead!!
When Andre Johnson contacted me to do a photo shoot. I was excited for two reasons. First, I just love romantic photo shoots in the desert! Even more so, I was excited to catch up with old friends! Here is my wedding selfie from Andre and Mary Beth’s wedding just over three years ago.
One thing was clearly evident from the moment I saw both Andre and Mary Beth – they are both still exceptionally beautiful, stylish, classy individuals–that has not changed! So how had my dear friend and fellow Young Life leader, Andre Johnson, changed these last three years?!! Let me tell you!!
His big heart has grown even bigger. The same loyalty, commitment, and integrity he showed every one of his family and friends, he now also lavishes on his wife and two children, Alicía and Malakaí. He loves them and I adore listening to him describe his life because it is exquisitely clear that his life revolves around his family. Mary Beth loves when Andre gets goofy and Andre loves laughing with Mary Beth. So like a fine wine, they are both getting even better with age and still looking absolutely fabulous while doing it.
Mary Beth and Andre, you are absolutely stunning inside and out. I can’t believe it’s already been three years and two children later since you were married. You love fully and deeply!! You are kind and courteous!! You put other people first and God’s light radiates from you like the warm sun. Thanks for recruiting me to take some photographs in the desert. I hope you love these pictures as much as I do which is a lot!! Congratulations on your three years of marriage!! The best is yet to be!!