When Marriage Is So Tough That You Need A Helmet…

When marriage is so tough that you need a helmet... an incredibly touching and inspiring story that highlights one couple's journey from hardship to great joy. I literally cheered with them during the canoe story in the final paragraphs!

It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago. A distant memory… but not so distant.

I was 19 years old. He was 20. My friend Kelly did my make-up and I wore a long, white dress while I walked down a long white aisle.

We thought we were so grown up. We thought marriage would be fairly easy because we were in love.


Then we went on our honeymoon…

We thoroughly enjoyed being together but by the final day, we were ready to go to our new home. We made the mistake of doing just one more “fun” activity before we left.

We bickered the entire time we were in a canoe together. We couldn’t get the boat to go the way we wanted it to go. We spent our time in the water working against each-other, each trying to steer the canoe our own way. Not listening to the other person.

My visions of an easy, nearly perfect marriage came quickly crashing down.

The canoe guide saw what was happening and told us about his wedding ring. Scratched and worn and no longer perfect, but still lovely.

Still lovely.

That first year of marriage I became pregnant, Nathan and I both lost our jobs, we started a computer-service company with no money in savings, a high-school friend of mine committed suicide, my parents divorced, and we moved from a tiny apartment into a house.

Plus Lily was born and we became a family of three living on one part-time income.

The stress was enough to crush us. But it didn’t. We learned. We grew. We loved. We worked. We stayed committed.

We took our vows seriously. We held tight and refused to give up.

Still lovely.


We’ve been together through the deaths of three grandparents. He held me while I cried at my cousin’s funeral. He’s also comforted me when I’ve worried about situations outside of my control and when I’ve hurt so badly I thought my heart would never heal.

I learned that a good marriage doesn’t come easy. There’s no great how-to manual that I know of. (Although “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard F. Harley, Jr. changed the course of our marriage for the better.)

There’s commitment. Respecting each-others differences. Learning to work together instead of against each-other. Trying hard. Offering grace. Refusing to give up. There’s also plenty of fun!

And there’s God. Through it all, His love prevailed and we never went without a meal in our bellies or a roof over our heads. He is good and our faith has grown so much.

We now have two healthy children, my husband’s computer business is thriving, I’m able to pursue my dream of being an author, we’re almost completely debt-free, and we’re closer to each-other than ever before.

As for canoeing? 

Nathan and I finally braved it again last summer with Lily and Grace. We had a blast. We worked together, we steered the boat without any problems, and we didn’t grow upset when the other person made a mistake.

When we pulled in to the finish-line with the rest of the canoers (friends from church), they celebrated with us that we conquered a marriage fear together!


Our friends understood that, for me, canoeing successfully with my husband was symbolic of the fact that we’re getting the hang of marriage.

Sometimes marriage is work. Some seasons are tough. But sometimes? Sometimes it’s so much fun that we laugh so hard, tears stream from our eyes. Sometimes we love each other so deeply that we think our hearts will explode.

Our wedding day, 10 years ago? We thought we were grown up then, but really, we’ve grown up together. We finally realize that we’ll never stop growing. I’ve spent over a third of my life married to my best friend. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Never perfect. But still lovely.



  1. Hannah Adams says:

    SO touching! *tears* This is so open and transparent, and I LOVE your honesty and optimism! Wow! And you sure know how to write to reach my heart. 🙂


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