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.
I am BEYOND excited to have a special guest contribution from the magnificent Corey Paxton. Having been married for over 19 wonderful years and partnering with his amazing wife Danielle, they have been making history and raising three beautiful daughters over the last couple of decades. I asked him if he would be willing to answer the following question: If I could travel back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I tell my younger self before I was married?
Since Josiah asked us to reflect on what we’ve learned in our 16 years of marriage and what we would say to our 23 year-old selves, I think I could write a book about everything I’ve learned! Some things you can only learn by experience, but I hope some of our experiences can help others in their journeys to learn how to love each other. I believe the mysterious process of two people becoming one is the greatest gift and greatest challenge in my life….and totally worth it! I wouldn’t trade the hard lessons I’ve learned and life I share with Danielle for anything. Here are a few things I wish I could talk to my 23 year old self about (although I’m not sure he would have listened”.
Make sure to take the plank out of your eye before you help with her specks…
‘Corey, you trust Jesus, but you need to trust Jesus with your wife’s journey with Jesus. You will fight the temptation to think, ‘if she would change, our relationship would be better.’ This thinking will get you no where. Yes, your wife has specks in her eye that keep her from seeing clearly, but don’t’ forget your job is to take the plank out of your own eye. Look at yourself first. Let Jesus’ love and grace into your mistakes. Take down your defenses. Be quick to admit your mistakes rather than trying to prove to her why you are good. The more you try to fix, change, or sermonize yourself or your wife, the farther you get away from the love and intimacy with God and your wife you really want.
Make sure she is with you before you run ahead…
You need to laugh at yourself here. You actually moved so fast after you said “I do” that you pulled your wife down the aisle. Don’t believe. Look at the pictures. This is something that you will continue to do and I want to urge you to SLOW DOWN. Enjoy walking with your wife rather than trying to pull her ahead of where she is. Ask good questions. Listen. Get to know her perspective and validate it even when you don’t agree. Make sure you are really together on big decisions and that she feels the freedom to be completely honest. It will be way better if you slow down and enjoy the journey together, even when it feels uncomfortably slow.
Be more honest about your vulnerabilities….you will like you more and so will she…
You grew up thinking you needed to be a hero. You like to care for other people’s problems. I mean, you became a pastor. Being honest about your own problems, needs, and vulnerabilities is hard for you, but is really important. You will be tempted to think that she won’t like (or love) you if she really knows the real you. You need to face the fear that you will be rejected and unwanted if you are really human. It’s a lie from the pit of hell and on the other side of this lie is the truth of love that only vulnerable humans can share together. Give her the freedom to be who she really is and trust that she will love you as you stop trying to be her hero. I mean, there is only one Hero that can meet our deepest needs, and you aren’t Him.
Ohhhh!!! This session was fun for so many reasons!! Mostly just because I love this family. I got to photograph Gabi’s wedding after meeting her in Young Life several years ago. This is the third time I have gotten the family behind my camera and so much has changed!! Gabi was pregnant with her second child in this shoot and all her little siblings are growing up and starting to become adults. (AJ is wearing a stunning uniform before deployment in this shoot). One thing has not changed, however. Dana and Amir have raised a family that is full of personality, loves to have fun and is a blast to be around!! Love these guys and gals!!
Here is one of my earliest family photos.
And here is my latest session with them!!
It’s so exciting – looking back while I look forward!! I am currently designing a system to make family portraits easy and fun. Preparing for launch has given me the unique opportunity to review some of my prior work!! I have traditionally only done weddings but would often sneak off to do family portraits for friends or prior clients. What a joy it is to look through these memories!! WOW!! I have gotten to photograph some fabulous humans!! Take a look at just a few of my favorites from the last few years 🙂
If you ever met Chad and Ally, then you know that they are going to both make fabulous parents. This was a very special session for me, getting to work with longtime friends. Chad has the biggest heart in the entire world and you know that his little boy is going to be so blessed by his father‘s full attention, wisdom, and goofy sense of fun. Ally is smart beyond all measure and she cares deeply. No one can stop her when she puts her mind to something and she is always looking for the good in people. This couple is a power couple in all the best ways. And now they get to welcome a little baby boy into the world very soon.
This was also fun because it was my first maternity session. I am in love with these photos–definitely some of my favorite desert photos ever. The session was still full of all the typical joy and laughter I love in an engagement session. But it was also full of really sweet, intimate moments as a loving mom and dad dreamed about their future baby.
Ally and Chad, thank you for letting me capture this special moment in the growing Zimmer family history. You are both amazing and I know the very best adventures lie directly ahead for your wonderful family. Much love to you both!