Wednesday, August 20, 2014

15 Years and Still Counting...

I am writing this on the eve of my 15th wedding anniversary.  This may just seem like an ordinary milestone but for me it is so much more.  15 years ago we were surrounded by so many people who thought we would never make it past the first year.  Many of our family and friends were pretty outspoken on all the reasons we shouldn't get married and all of the ways our marriage would fail.  We had haters before haters was even a word.

We had a lot of things going against us.  We were starting off our married life with a baby boy on the way.  We literally got married and became parents 22 days later.  Shawn was in school and worked full time.  I was in school and worked full time.  We had very little money and already had stupid, frivolous debt.  I had never lived on my own and knew nothing about paying bills or taking care of myself.  Shawn had lived on his own for the year we were dating but I can safely say that he was a work in progress.  We had nothing... except ferocious amounts of love, faith and courage.

15 years later I can still say that those 3 virtues continue to lead us.  We love unconditionally.  This has been tested through the years.  We have had to work on loving each other, even when it seemed so hard.  But, true love does not have an ending.  You have to work selflessly on loving someone, at times, even more than you love yourself.  You have to keep that promise to love each other... NO MATTER WHAT.  And, guess what I have learned in 15 years... it is hard.  It is soul aching, heart wrenching effort to do that on some days.  But you commit to it and you keep that promise.

You have to challenge yourself daily to reflect on the person you are walking life with.  How have they changed you?  How do they make you a better person?  By asking these questions, your love continues to grow.  Shawn has loved me more than he should with no regard for anything else
He has never given up on me or our marriage.  He is the hardest working man I know with no depths to his integrity and character.  It makes me stronger in my own character.  And most importantly, he is the best father that has ever walked this earth- he gives my children wings and confidence.  He has created in them a drive to make every one of their dreams come true.  He is their soft place to fall and motivates them to be better than they ever could have imagined being.  I know God gave me shawn to make me stronger, kinder and lighter.  He is the reason I get up and begin again every day.  Those reasons help me daily to love unconditionally.

We have continued to have faith in each other.  Again, this is a pretty tough thing.  For me- a stubborn, independent Buckley girl- I never realized how difficult having faith in someone other than myself could be.  I have learned that having faith in your partner, even in your toughest trials, will help you come out of the other end.  The struggles are a little less difficult when you have faith in the person you share your life with.  I know without a doubt that Shawn has my back.  He is my protector, my confidante and my backbone. 

Faith in each other is great but faith in God is even better.  There have been times in the last 15 years where we didn't know what our future would hold.  We had to put our faith in God that he would show us the way.  Through job changes, personal struggles, multiple kiddos, moves and an adoption you have to keep your eye on the prize.  The goal has always been for me, to get to heaven together.  That has meant making tough decisions and calling on God when times were hard.  I have reminded Shawn of that on his worst days and I know he has reminded me.  Those tests are what creates the strong foundation for your marriage.  It solidifies the rock in your relationship, and for me, it has been and always will be God.

Lastly, we have had to have courage.  In todays wonderful age of self promotion and the "numero uno" mentality, we have been surrounded by people who are vastly different than us.  We have had to walk together with courage that we are right and the rest of the world is wrong.  This started when we were married and continues, even today.  We have made some unpopular decisions that other families have judged us for.  Just look at the size of our beautiful family.  Don't think that we haven't had to have extraordinary amounts of courage to walk that path against the norm.  That courage we had 15 years ago still continues to help us walk the path regardless of who is following. 

I am a relatively big God person and don't find a lot of coincidences.  I believe most of my life has been guided by His loving hand.  Meeting Shawn was just another divine stop on my life adventure.  Shawn was the boy who I was meant to walk this earth with.  The one who was meant to be the father of my children.  The one with whom I was destined to change the world.  He is the exact balance to who I am.  He is the calm to my storm.  He is the safety belts to my roller coaster.  I am the architect and he is the builder of my dreams.    

After 15 years I know for sure that I could not have become the person I am with out him.  He has made me a better person.  It is my hope that after 15 years he can say the same.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sage Lake Reminiscing Part One

We have just arrived back from our annual trip to Sage Lake in Hale, Michigan.  I wanted to write all week and lose myself in storytelling but alas, that did not happen.  However, as we have settled back into the routine of daily life I have found myself feeling very melancholy about the blessing we have received.
My Uncle Dan and Aunt Bev purchased a small cottage in Hale Michigan about 20 years ago.  No one could ever have anticipated how that small little cottage would bring our families together.  After many renovations and lots of investment, the small cottage home became a massive house to hold all of our families.  Through the years my dads side of the family would gather every Labor Day and 4th of July to boat, swim, laugh and bond.  It was a place where we were able to gather and be thankful of the blessing of our extended family.  As families expanded, we slowly started losing the connection to the cottage.  For Shawn and I it was nearly impossible to come from Kentucky with little babies for a weekend of fun in the sun.  We missed all of these times and it made me feel really bad about having my children not experience that amazing family time that I grew up with and took for granted.
About 4 years ago, my Uncle Dan and Aunt Bev had an opportunity to sell their cottage and the burden that comes with upkeep from a cottage home used only a handful of times.  So many of the extended family had families of their own and it was really clear that the Bountiful Buckleys had outgrown coming together under one roof.  However, instead of selling their home, they made the incredibly, unbelievable decision to keep the house and divide the summer weeks for each Buckley family.  Each family had 2 weeks to enjoy the cottage and boat with their growing families.  To this day, I can not fathom the generosity of this gift.  I believe that my Uncle Dan and Aunt Bev will never understand the gift they gave to our family.
For starters, the cottage has provided my brothers and sisters to have a home to create memories for our children.  Let's be honest... where else could we find a home that could accommodate 6 families with 27 children between them?  We are spread throughout the United States and the lucklihood of us being able to get together annually would have been slim to none.  Getting our families together, gives us siblings time to get to know each other again.  For our spouses to get to know all of us better.  To have some uninterrupted adult time while the kids lose themselves in kick the can or swimming in the lake. 
Its not just the connection of my siblings and I, it is this moments of relationship building that happens with our children.  This summer I watched a true friendship blossom between Shawn and Emma.  It reminded me so much of the amazing relationship I had with my own big brother growing up {I went to prom with him Junior AND Senior year!}.  That relationship was one of the most important ones during my high school years.  It kept me out of trouble and safe while I was dabbling in trouble :) 
Kiley and her Dad developed a closer Dad/Daughter relationship.  They have always had a magic bond since birth but this year I got to see it, up close and personal.  The secret glances and quiet talks.  The little pick me ups that he can give and that change her whole outlook on life.  As I stood back and watched this, I thought of my Dad and I.  He is still my biggest cheerleader and the one person I go to in all times of trouble for wisdom, guidance and unconditional love. 
Dylan and Keegan were inseperable and this year I found myself laughing hysterically, as they came up with all sorts of ways to make the lake their own.  Hillbilly handfishing and trying to catch little minnows had me rolling!  Concocting games that involved throwing rocks, tying up toys and finding little treasures.  This reminded me of the games my sister and I would play growing up.  We were forever making up stories, games and activities that kept us busy for hours.
But, its not just our children.  It is the relationships that are forming between cousins, Aunts and Uncles.  Growing up I had the best relationships with my cousins- on my moms and dads side.  I would challenge ANYONE to tell me that you had it better.  The memories I have of connecting with my cousins are some of the best memories in my childhood.  There was a time I thought I had lost that for my children.   I really had a lot of guilt over that.  The cottage has given us all an opportunity to create a place for the cousins to play, get to know each other and create lifelong bonds.  These bonds will give them a confidence and security most kids are never privy to. 
The relationships they are building with their aunts and uncles are giving them countless cheerleaders and role models for their futures.  To this day, my Aunts and Uncles are my heroes... because I knew them and looked up to them.  I was provided countless opportunities to spend time in their prescence.  My uncles threatened every boyfriend I brought around and my Aunts showed me the value of true sisterhood.  I knew, and still know, I can count on any one of them to have my back any time, day or night.  Because of the "Cottage Gift" my kids are learning this as well.
For the next few days I intend to write on some of the highlights from our trip.  I am doing so with the hopes that some of these moments will explain the magnitude of such an amazing, undeserved gift of love that has been and will continue being life changing for my kiddos.  It is a blessing that I can only repay through the building of the family bonds that we are able to focus on for one magical week every summer in Hale Michigan.
One of their crazy made up games

Shawnie and Emma bonding at the Lake

Daddy and his little girl

Cowabunga dude!

Sassy Olders experiencing independence on the Lake

Daddy and his boys