A promise
During our honeymoon to the West Coast in 2000, Chris and I made a special promise to one another. We vowed to celebrate every anniversary on a new adventure, experiencing the wonders of God's creations together. And, for the most part, we've been blessed to do just that (the one exception being 2008 - the year our second baby boy was born only six weeks before our eight-year anniversary). From Caribbean cruises and our hikes through the Great Smoky Mountains and The Rockies, to Mexican seaside adventures early in our marriage, beachside fun with our two boys, and  boating along the Midwest's greatest river and most stunning lakes, we have experienced a wide range of fantastic destinations together.

The Murray's on the "Good Time'ing" in TN.

Having experienced our greatest joys as DINKS (dual-income-no-kids) along a seaside coast somewhere in the sun, Chris and I plotted out a course to relocate to Jacksonville, FL in 2003. Yes, these two young Midwesterners sold our house, left our jobs, and headed to the coast. We traded in our cozy two-bedroom ranch on one-acre of land in eastern Cincinnati for apartment living 10 miles from the beach. Many evenings we headed to Jax Beach for dinner on the water. Our weekends were spent biking through coastal Georgia and north Florida. We felt so free. Although, it was shorter lived than either of us ever expected, we did it...we lived by the beach.
Not even a year later we came back. Against our will, we did the "right thing" and came home.
Eighteen months later, my mother died.
My story
I was a big "oooopps." The product of a young, lost 19-year-old Kentucky girl and her equally na├»ve naval seamen. They met in high school, accidently produced yours truly, married for the all the wrong reasons, produced another daughter, and divorced after 14 years of struggle. Their road was rocky. They were often very financially strained. My father worked a lot, and my mother stayed home during those early years. With only a high school education and two young girls, she didn't have much of a platform to discover a career. Overweight and insecure, the home dad provided was all she knew for the first two decades of her adulthood.

I realized at e very young age that the dynamic my parents shared was not healthy.  Yes, our home had love, but it had a whole lot of conflict too. I longed for the peace I saw among families on popular eighties sitcoms. I couldn't wait for Thursday nights when I could watch how "real" families loved one another on Family Ties and The Cosby Show, not realizing until my cynical teenage years that families like that DO NOT exist! I knew this much by the time I reached puberty - I longed for a household that wasn't broken; a household that shared peace and contentment.

My life would be different. I would marry a man that would be my best friend. And, we would experience life together, building a strong foundation, before bringing children into this world (I had read that a strong marriage was the best gift a man and wife could give their children). I would establish a successful career first, and then become a mom...surely this would give me the security and strength that my own mother sought so hard to find. We would raise our children in a peaceful home where they would never doubt where love began...with their mommy and their daddy. This was my dream as a teenage girl, and I prayed and prayed that one day I could make it all a reality for my life.
Well, fast-forward a few decades, and I'm thankful to say I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to live out those aspirations. I married my teenage sweetheart, who has been my best friend since I was the ripe age of 16. We grew in love with one another and our God. We've traveled up and down the peaks and valleys of the last few decades of this life journey together, and I'm very proud to say we've never given up, despite the many times the devil has done his best to break us down. Our God is in the midst of our marriage and is the sole reason it is still intact. He gave us two healthy, beautiful boys to teach us even more about love, life, humility, compassion, patience and unadulterated joy.  We are a family built on faith, hope and love..."but the greatest of these is LOVE."
Life is short. I first encountered this when Chris's father passed from a heart attack out in the field with his cows at 48-years-young. Chris and I were engaged to be married when he passed. I watched this young man I loved fall apart at the seams with grief over the loss of a man that was not only his parent, but a teacher, and most importantly, a best friend. I saw it change him from the inside out. The grief completely stole his joy and lust for life.  And, I thought I understood, but after a period of time, I found myself frustrated with his inability to find happiness the way he used to.  I truly had no idea the pain he endured. I never fathomed the expansive hole one's heart could undergo, until seven years later when my mother passed away unexpectedly at the same age (48) from complications of a brain aneurysm. I was five years into our marriage, looking forward to starting a family of my own, and thought I had my life in order. Then, she died. And, she took a part of me with her when she did. Six weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant with my first baby. I became a mother without my own mother to show me the way. My heart was broken. My faith was stirred. My joy was stolen. My life was changed forever.

JOY is at the center of all human desire. Our craving to feel "happy" initiates why we do what we do - whether what we do is ultimately good, bad or indifferent...we all strive to find that "happy place."  But, joy doesn't simply happen to us. We have to choose it and keep choosing it every single day, and that takes work. Sadly enough, many never get the chance to experience it, because our hearts our blocked by our broken pasts and the devil's lies. Life has dealt us rotten circumstances, and we choose to dwell in them, and that dwelling rots our souls from the inside out. True joy brings us a happiness in the pit of our gut that nothing can shake.  And, I must admit, although I've felt glimpses of it, I'm still longing for joy to take over my heart and soul. And, I pray one day I will let it.


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