Zach and I have known each other since the 7th grade, that’s about 17 years. I guess you could say we were middle school sweethearts, that broke up and got back together in the car rider line a couple times. He used to sign his notes “I love you like a fat kid loves cake”. So very romantic. Thanks 50 Cent for your wonderful poetry, if you know you know. I used to see him waiting for me during class change at the corner of the wall by the library and wonder if I should hold his hand or not?! I can honestly say even at the ripe old age of 12 I really liked him. I still am not too sure anyone knows the meaning of love at that point or what it truly is, heck I don’t think we even had normal conversations in fear you might say something embarrassing! We really didn’t see each other outside of school (thanks Mom & Dad for being strict with my adolescent self), but I can honestly say from the first day I met him in the 7th grade to today in Liberia, West Africa you won’t find a heart that is quite as big as his.
We went to rival high schools but always kept in touch whether it was through someone, or seeing each other somewhere in our small town. After my high school graduation we met at a get together, ok a party, we met a party, and immediately connected. Now we were “adults” and we just knew it all. I went away to school in Washington DC and we held onto that long distance relationship while I was gone. When I came home everything was perfect. We were older, not wiser at all, but older. The years came and went and I still felt so attracted to this mans heart, but now it seemed other things in his life were beginning to take precedence over our relationship.
It was 2013, nearly 5 years had gone by that we had rekindled our relationship from those 7th grade butterflies. I had made some changes and some personal things happened in our lives that I woke up one morning and decided a change was in order for myself. Time to grow up, time to put a little more into my faith, time to do a lot of things I was neglecting. Zach wasn’t quite on board. It took some time, and even then I think he knew all along that there was a deeper and darker secret he was keeping. We all may have had an idea it was there but no one noticed the extent to which the problem had developed.
I’ll never forget the Saturday morning I went to the gym, it was during the CrossFit Open (sorry no time to explain what this is, but if you know me you know CrossFit was a big part of my life), Zach was supposed to come to the gym and as the time ticked on he never showed. My heart was broken that morning. It was the last straw. I decided at that moment my heart couldn’t take anymore, I was going home that day and I was going to tell Zach I couldn’t do it anymore. It hurt so badly, no one ever wants things to come to that. But they do. They do very often. I remember talking to God that entire way home and just asking for an answer. For Him to show Zach the way, and show him that life is much better and happier without feeling like drinking is a fix. I walked into our house to a very emotional person who seemed broken on the inside. He told me without hesitation that he had a problem. He was an alcoholic. Before I could say anything I wanted to say I felt a sense of relief wash over me, as I’m sure it did him also. Finally, the truth. Admitting it is the first step. March 10th, 2013, that is the day my husband became new again. That is the day the mask came off, and the true beauty of his soul began to shine through. I still don’t think I understand the weight of this decision that he made, it seemed to be so easy from the outside looking in, he just quit. I am sure he had days that he had a really hard time those first couple years. In fact, I know he did, but he did a good job making it not seem so. He found a program that worked for him, that made him admit the problem was still there and would creep back in if he let it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction problem, just remember how much you are loved. Life is so beautiful when you walk through the days with a clear mind. Make today your day. I don’t think Zach has ever felt regret on making the decision he did 6 years ago. Yes, some days are harder than others, life comes with its crosses and it’s trials. But make today your day.
A couple years later we stood on an alter in front of God and our closest family and friends and vowed to love each other for better or for worse. A couple months after that Brady and Isaac showed themselves on a black and white ultrasound screen. A couple years after that our Max came into the picture. Our life has been full of blessings. To get to this point today so many things had to line up. A huge life change, new jobs, new companies, losing jobs, selling companies, selling homes, buying homes, confusion about what to do next, and answers that so boldly revealed themselves it was just proof that God had our story written long before it played out. Now we are here. I thought then that my husbands heart was big, but I see him now, and his heart has grown. I didn’t think it was possible, but with a deeper faith, a fervent calling, and an ultimate want to help and serve I have seen that heart grow tremendously.
Marriage in the third world isn’t quite like marriage in the first, there are a couple more bumps and hardships. On days you may feel very happy your partner may be feeling the opposite way. Zach is definitely feeling the stresses of Liberia more than I am because he deals firsthand with the issues that we are presented with. But I am dealing with our children, which is stressful enough also. Date nights were pretty nonexistent back home, but we had the ability to drop kids off with family and go grab some dinner. It’s not like that here. You are around your children constantly, with no breaks or feeling like you are getting any time alone during the day to even have a simple conversation. When our children go to sleep at night we sit and the first thing he asks me is how my day was. Life here looks and feels very differently, but we are not different people. We are just people dealing with different issues and faced with different challenges. The most important thing we can continue to do is keep God at the center of our marriage and be open and honest about our feelings and what we are needing at that time. We have become better at reading each other, after 17 years of knowing each other, it took Liberia to really be able to know when one of us needs to take the kids somewhere, or when Zach needs to have time to sit alone and think about the next step. We still get angry, we still pout, and we still have our days when it’s hard to find the good in anything. But one thing is certain, on that alter in 2014 I gave Zach my heart. For richer for poorer, sickness and in health, till death do us part. I would follow this guy to the ends of the Earth. He loves the Lord, me, and our children with an undying, unwavering, and spectacular kind of love.
I pray that we can be an example for the Liberian people. I pray that they see love and strive for that kind of love themselves. Marriage is not a norm here, women have babies, sometimes with multiple men. If you cannot have children you are cast out, and looked down upon. Procreation is the goal here. Not love and then marriage. It seems sometimes as if there is no emotional connection here. How can there be? When your life is as hard as it is for someone born and raised here it is very hard to give into any emotions because you have seen and lived through so much.
I will end this saying I am one proud wife. I am proud to be married to Zach. He makes me a better person. He reminds me when I need to tone it back, bite my tongue, and think about what Jesus would do when my fiery side comes out. He is an amazing father to our kiddos and they love him so incredibly much. I pray for those dealing with addictions everyday. They control your life until you don’t let them anymore. It’s hard. But it’s worth it. I am so glad Zach saw that 6 years ago.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.