Begin again: a new marriage

At long last, the story of our 10-year vow renewal. A resurrection story told in vows, photos, scripture, and song.

As you may recall, my husband and I decided to renew our vows for our 10-year anniversary back in June. And while the actual event was for less than 40 people in a small backyard, it was the most important event in our lives, second only to our salvations.

And because it is such a big freaking deal, I naturally wanted to write and tell you all about it. But I don’t know how.

So instead of trying to capture the fullness of it in a story, this post is a collage of moments that, I hope, reveal the tenderness of this day that was more like a baptism—a consecration, a resurrection—than a wedding.


Dear Ellie, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for my moments of faithlessness, and how that hurt us. I’m sorry for my anger, and the chaos it caused. I’m sorry for not listening, for being more focused on being right than being compassionate. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t cover you, for the times you were left to figure things out on your own. I’m sorry for the man I was when we met, and that you had to be present as I figured out who I was and what mattered.

Most of all though, I’m sorry I didn’t lead us to Christ sooner, that it took things falling so far into seeming hopelessness before suggesting that, perhaps, we could find reprieve in God.

Before you, our friends, our family, our daughter, and our God above, I repent for these things. Please forgive me. (I do.)

In the past ten years I have learned, essentially, that C.S. Lewis was correct about love, and my own understanding was flawed. He says: “Ceasing to be ‘in love’, in the way that we were in love the day before our wedding, need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run being in love was the explosion that started it.”

I couldn’t phrase it better myself. God, work, commitment, grace, and habit—these things are the new foundation of this marriage.

Ellie Di Julio, I promise hence forth…

To love you unconditionally, without expectations or conditions, without reservation, and to choose to do this every day no matter what struggles we may be facing.

To cover you and our family with Godly wisdom, and to lead our house in all ways, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make me.

To focus my attention on you, every day, and to choose you as a priority, as my favourite human.

To remain steadfast in my faith and work daily to keep our family on that narrow road which leads to life. Whether in the good or the bad, to remind us that He is a good God.

To be slow to anger, patient and understanding, eager to listen, that I might benefit from your wisdom and your gifts.

To be faithful to you, and only you, from now till the end of our time here.

These things, in front of all assembled and our Heavenly Father, I promise to you.

I never thought we would be standing here.

12 years ago, I wasn’t interested in getting married. 7 years ago, I didn’t know Jesus. 6 years ago, I thought we were getting divorced. But here we are.

The marriage we’ve had over the past 10 years is not the marriage we have starting today. Because God has rewritten our stories, individually and together.

Today we have the chance to honor God’s miraculous healing of our relationship by making a completely new covenant.

To me, that begins with washing away the old one. And that begins with repentance and forgiveness.

I repent to you, Lino. For punishing you with expectations. For being unfaithful. For giving up. For my stubbornness, my withholding, my distance, and my rage. I’m sorry for the thousand cuts of the last ten years.

Do you forgive me? (I do.)

And I forgive you, Lino. For hiding from me. For straying. For silencing my conscience. I forgive your stubbornness, your withholding, your distance, and your rage. I forgive the thousand cuts of the last ten years.

Do you receive my forgiveness? (I do.)

All of this is washed away, now, by the precious blood of Jesus.

And because 10 is the number of completion, now we get to close the book on our old marriage and start over fresh. A new marriage full of new promises.

Lino, I promise you that I am here, with you and for you.

I promise to back your play, to look out for your best interests, and to believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

I promise to have right priorities. To put God first and to put you ahead of myself; to allow you to have your rightful place as the leader of our family and to honor your decisions once they’re made.

I promise to fight fair, to speak the truth with love, and to receive correction with as much grace as I can muster.

I promise to protect my heart, to be fully yours in every way, to seek you out first and only.

I promise to stop throwing away your stuff without asking first, to cook breakfast for dinner at least once a week, to always cry at the end of 300.

I promise that I will love you for who you are and for who you’re becoming, through all our changes, inside and out, until God calls us home.

I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.” [Revelation 21:1-5 MSG]

This is my resurrection day
Nothing’s gonna hold me in the grave
This is my resurrection day
Nothing’s gonna hold me down
Say goodbye to my yesterdays
Ever since I met you I am changed
This is my resurrection day
Nothing’s gonna hold me down

.
Rend Collective, “Resurrection Day”

Noticing.SixtyEight

  1. I try to make myself feel guilty for missing two days of daily work. But I don’t. What overtook them was so much more precious.
  2. Day one of no caffeine. Not too bad so far. (Timestamp: 7:35am.)
  3. In the wake of revelation, the question. What is the next smallest step forward?
  4. An unwelcome stormcloud in the house.
  5. It’s the kind of conversation neither of us wants to have about a problem we both know needs solving. Neither of us has a solution that feels right although we both know the easy way out.
  6. My insides tie themselves in knots, burning up my energy into weak nothing. The timing is suspicious. I crawl into bed wondering if the attack is a coincidence or a red flag for something more emotional than physical.
  7. Two hours, four messages. Instant guilt for being sick.
  8. Everything gets so much easier when you can identify what you do want instead of only what you don’t want.
  9. This feels like giving up.
  10. “You’re being shitty because it’s not Christmas yet.” This is how the Holy Spirit talks to me.

The State of the Ellie: October 2019

Waiting on immigration (still), the Long Walk, werewolf toddler, body squish, and the lightning round.

The top-of-my-head update was awesome last time, so I’m doing it again. I admit this one is a bit janky, though. September was overflowing with busyness; October is shaping up to be more so; and I have eleventy-billion things clamoring for my attention right now. It makes it tough to focus. Also, 400 words died in a tragic misclicking accident, but this is already late, so apologies for the clunkiness. Onward!


Nope. Still don’t know when we’re leaving.

Immigration and the Florida Move (which sounds like a terrible island-rock band) are ongoing but without updates. A piece of paper here, a list of forms there. But no matter how many times people ask me when we’re going (or if we’re still going at all), my answer doesn’t change. I don’t know because it’s not up to me. Arabic has a great word for this that runs through my brain whenever the question comes up: inshallah, meaning “if God wills it.” I’m thinking of having it tattooed on my forehead.

In practical terms, we’re waiting for a letter with a special number that unlocks the online application process, which should speed things up. Math tells us we’re still looking at 6-14 weeks before we have the visa in hand, though. Woof.

And it was the best long walk ever.

Lino and his band of ruffians did their incredible Road to Recovery event a couple of weeks ago, and it was far and away the most successful year ever. New people marched the 148-kilometer distance, new Legion branches supported, there were tanks(!), and at current, the total raised for Operation: Leave the Streets Behind is over $60,000 and climbing—every cent of which goes to veterans facing homelessness.

I’m so wildly proud of my husband for the work he does with this organization. For the past six years, he’s put in countless hours of work to ensure that veterans and first responders are taken care of the way they should be. He never falters in his kindness, never fails to be cheerful despite blisters and sunburn and exhausted limbs. It’s his passion, a godly calling, and it shows.

If you’d like to donate to the cause, the page is up until November when the team presents a big ol’ cheque to the Legion. Click here to contribute!

Mackenzie is in a season of transition, not unlike that of a werewolf.

All month long, Mackenzie’s been riding some sort of emotional rollercoaster, the design of which is a secret even after she’s passed through the loops and dives. She’s alternately intensely clingy and intensely independent; she’s napping again but fighting bedtime; she’s more kind than ever and more manipulative, too; she’s creating extensive stories in her imagination that are sometimes delightful, sometimes horrific.

It’s a lot. For her and for me. There’s been a lot of snuggles and quiet talks and tears and discipline. Not saying who got what, but we’re navigating it together, one day at a time.

And every once in a while, she says or does something big kids do, and it reminds me that she’s only little for a little while. That, for better or worse, we’ll only be here once. It helps me to be patient; it makes her a bit concerned about why mommy is crying. It’s bittersweet, the quintessence of parenting.

On the upside, we’re watching Hilda together, and she loves it. Sharing things you love with your kid is the best.

My body is squishy again, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Between an ever-busier schedule and the carb-heavy diet our budget allows, my body isn’t gaining back its muscle and tone the way I’d hoped. The scale hasn’t shifted beyond normal fluctuations, and my clothes fit fine, but when I’m sitting on the couch, walking around without pants (don’t judge me, you do it, too), and getting ready in the morning, I notice softness where things were firm not long ago. And it makes me feel weird.

Last August, God asked me to trust that I wouldn’t fall back into disordered eating if worked out and tracked food to take care of my body. And I did. And it went great! (I should write a thing about this.) But after a break and this returning squish, I’m wondering if the challenge in my healing was not last year when I began, but now when I think I’ve arrived, that I’m “over it.” It may be.

Fortunately, my spiritual muscles haven’t softened, and I’m confident in Him to hold my worries for me so I don’t have to sweat it. (Well, beyond actual sweat. Still gotta get those gains.) I’m also actively choosing to embrace my body, no matter how squishy, for the bizarrely wonderful creation it is. I love my little godpod.

The lightning round

  • I learned so much about myself with the podcasting fast early in the month. The reset what super good for my brain. More about that in this giant post.
  • I decided to do Inktober this year for reasons I don’t understand. It’s way out of my area of expertise, and I’m bending the rules a bit, but it’s fun. Join me?
  • I made my first tres leches cake with a friend, and it came out pretty good! We definitely learned a lot about milk.
  • Lino went off coffee last month due to tummy issues and switched to tea, but I cannot for the life of me remember to make it for him. I hate tea. But I hate not being able to get in the bathroom more, so I shall persevere.
  • I volunteered to organize a staycation version of our church‘s women’s retreat this weekend! I am super excited! I have no idea what I’m doing! It’s going to be great!
  • I’m taking a class about the biblical concept of renewing your mind, through a neuropsychology lens, and it is blowing my mind. Definitely more on this later.

Now you! Tell me what’s been going on in your world this past month? What’s been good? Not so good? Let’s chat in the comments.

The beat goes on: 8 new (to me) music finds

During my podcast-free week, I asked for new music recommendations to fill the void, and y’all delivered! Here are my favourite finds.

Woman with teal hair wearing oversize headphones listening to music

Listen to the Music by cocacolagirlie via Deviant Art

Perhaps the best part of my week-long podcast fast was exploring all the music recommendations. I don’t listen to the radio anymore because I have contracted The Old and everything I hear there sounds like garbled synthmess to me. Taking in new music hasn’t happened in well over five years, and I didn’t know where to start, so I posted an all-call on social media.

And, boy, did you guys deliver.

Below, I’ve curated a list of my favorites, in no particular order. Give them a listen, see what you dig, then leave even more recs in the comments!

Oh! A quick note before we get to that.

What made this exercise so precious wasn’t actually the music itself—I would have been fine listening to the same stuff I’ve listened to since high school—it’s that, because humans’ musical preferences are so keyed into their identity, I feel closer to each person who shared with me. I’m getting a peek into their private worlds, what makes them happy and sad, the kind of thing that moves them. Until this, I hadn’t realized how much we reveal about ourselves when we share music with others. How intensely personal! So I want to give extra thanks to everyone who let me see them a little more clearly by sharing with me.

Anyway.

On to the music! Crank it to 11!


The Dirty Nil (NSFW): punk

Scandroid: synthwave

Durand Jones & The Indications: soul/ R&B

Putamayo Presents: Gypsy Caravan: world

Chumped: pop punk

Tenement: alt rock

The Shakes: soul/punk

The Struts: glam rock


Got any other music recommendations for me? Share them in the comments!

I quit listening to podcasts for a week and this is what happened

I turned off the background noise of other people’s thoughts for a week because it was making me nuts, and hoo-boy did it make a difference.

A black and white photo of a pair of broken earbud headphones

CONFESSION: I listen to 4-6 hours of podcasts per day. And given that I’m both a freelance writer and have a toddler at home with me, that’s a significant portion of my day.

Like, too much of it.

So I decided to quit for a week. Just to see if maybe, just maybe, all those other voices and all that extra noise in my head was causing me more stress than the stuff I was trying to distract myself from in the first place.

I’ve actually done this before but always as part of church-wide prayer and fasting. This time I’m doing it solo, which provides way more opportunity for cheating and quitting, so I created accountability for myself with a daily journal, shared below for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

Read along, then slide in the comments to commiserate about all the ways you distract yourself that are probably not helpful!

If you want to skip the daily notes and jump right to the takeaways section, you can click right here and do that thing.


Monday

This was a work day, when I don’t podcast much anyway, and I missed the gym because tired, so I didn’t encounter many obstacles. Spending a good chunk of my time writing about why I’m abstaining and then sharing it helped, too. Don’t underestimate the power of putting your intentions in writing and/or telling someone. Even if you never mention it again, it signals to your brain that you’re serious. So helpful.

That said, there was momentary resistance at two points, both of which were expected: kitchen time and ablutions. Those are my time, the time when Mama gets to tune out and do her thing, and I always have something on. It gives my brain something to do while my hands are busy. Not having that entertainment caused a glitch in my flow, but it only caught me for a moment. Then I put on some actual music instead. I’d forgotten how much I like that.

Day 1, a rousing success!

Tuesday

I decided at 5am when my alarm went off that I’m not going to the gym this week. Between the hella-early start time and the lack of podcasts to disappear into, I don’t think I can face it. I’ll go back next week and hide all the cookies until then.

While I was supposed to work this day, I ended up running a mishmash of errands, which meant lots of time in the car—my second-biggest podcasting time. Fortunately, I’d prepared by putting music on my phone for the first time in approximately a hundred years. Jamming to old favourites like Marvelous 3 and Squeeze really lifted my mood, even when a great-grandmother nearly T-boned me at the grocery store.

Several wins today! But I admit to being a bit disappointed. The stress-related jaw clenching is still there, and my singing parts gave out so quickly that they’re either massively out of shape or I’m even more chronically sick than I thought. It’s only day two, though. Holding it lightly.

Another expected-yet-frustrating hurdle: showering. I always have something on. Music is okay for this experiment (and starting one’s day with worship is never a bad idea), but something deeper needed silence. I left my phone in the kitchen. I didn’t have any grand revelations in the shower, but I did notice I was thinking. That sounds stupid and obvious, but the fact that they were my own thoughts and not someone else’s is meaningful.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully (at least as far as this is concerned—every day is eventful with a three-year old). Driving my husband to the start point for this year’s ruck wasn’t bad since we kept each other occupied, but I think I cheated on the way back. I downloaded SJ Tucker’s story albums specifically for Mack, and we listened to that on the way home. I’m not sure if that breaks the rules, but it didn’t feel like it? So I won’t count it against myself. Besides, I could barely listen anyway because I was so focused on the rain on my windshield.

Another good day! I’m feeling much more at ease in the silence. We will see what more driving days bring, though.

I did notice I was thinking. That sounds stupid and obvious, but the fact that they were my own thoughts and not someone else’s is meaningful.

Thursday

Mack was supposed to have a playdate, but she claimed a bellyache, so they stayed in downstairs. This shouldn’t have changed my day, but gastrointestinal symptoms shoot me into orbit, so instead of writing, I deep-cleaned the house. Ordinarily, this is when I’d podcast it up hard; long stretches of time doing mindless tasks is primo listening time. But instead, I fired up my “Nostalgia” playlist and rocked out to late-90s hits and Ayumi Hamasaki. I used to do this all the time when I’d clean the whole house once a week (what was I even doing with my life back then), and it was refreshing to have a beat to work to.

I am struggling a bit with expectations, though. Because I’m intentionally making mental space, and God is talking all the time, I expected to get a big revelation/word right away, especially given the season we’re in. But the closest thing I’ve had is when I was vacuuming and directly asked what He wanted to say to me, all I heard was, “You’re drinking too much caffeine.” And honestly, I’m 50/50 on whether or not that was actually Satan.

maybe, just maybe, all those other voices and all that extra noise in my head was causing me more stress than the stuff I was trying to distract myself from

Friday

There was a lot going on this day, so I honestly didn’t notice the lack of background podcasts. Visiting all morning with a friend, working during naptime, and trying to clean the office/playroom with Mack made the day full of sound in its own right.

I will say that I did notice a correlation between drinking mostly decaf coffee and my jaw being less tense at the end of the day. Now, I’m not making any wild statements like I actually did hear from the Lord yesterday and not the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy my caffeine intake, but the odds are skewing that way.

Saturday

This day was a trashfire. Mackenzie was in fine form beginning at breakfast and didn’t let up until she passed out (at night, because hahaha joke’s on you if you thought she’d nap). I almost broke down in tears twice.

This matters because the tenor of the day revealed just how severely circumstances impact my craving to put on a podcast and check the eff out. All I wanted was to not be where I was, doing what I was doing; podcasts let me do that when I physically can’t.

BUT. Because my head is clearer, I could see how not doing that made everything better. When I’m in that mode, I obsessively turn the podcast on and off trying to focus on it to get relief, but it competes with other audio signals (Mackenzie, running water, the TV) for attention, and that ramps up my frustration faster than if I addressed what’s upsetting me in the first place. In that situation, podcasts are lighter fluid on a grass fire. Not having access to them during this particularly stressful day highlighted their futility (and actual harm) in moments I think I need them most.

*stroking her beard* Interesting….

the tenor of the day revealed just how severely circumstances impact my craving to put on a podcast and check the eff out

Sunday

I woke up to discover the annoyance I’ve felt every morning is almost totally gone. Each day, I’ve had this nagging tug of ughdontwanna about morning ablutions; for some reason, I want someone talking to me first thing. But today, I was perfectly happy to put on chill instrumental music like I’ve been doing for dishes and bedtime. A win!

Sundays don’t usually get a lot of listening between church and family time, so I didn’t miss much here. Instead of podcasts on the drive to pick up Lino from the long walk, I shared my favorite Urge album with Mackenzie (she liked it). The drive, the chores, the ablutions—all of it passed peacefully, with barely a blip of sound-struggle.

A successful last day!


TAKEAWAYS

It cleared and focused my mind, enabled me to be more present with my kid, released anxiety and tension from my body, and made space for me to hear both my own voice and the voice of God.

I didn’t want to do this fast. Who wants to deprive themselves of a creature comfort, especially one that’s free and doesn’t do lasting damage to your body, even it’s only a measly week?

But re-reading these daily notes, it’s obvious that it needed to be done. You can sense the tension dropping as the days went on and the chaos in my mind stilled.

By the end, what I noticed most wasn’t what was there but what wasn’t: the lack of needing to put something on the second there was a pause. That almost subconscious impulse to fill all available space with voices now fades away as fast as it pops up.

I am a bit sad that I didn’t have any major revelations, but that isn’t actually the point. (Although that thing about drinking too much caffeine turned out to be legit.)

Much like a crash diet won’t change your life forever, a break from podcasting is a short-term confrontation of a larger issue. I needed to get real about the nature of my listening addiction, and I did precisely that.

Going forward

While podcasts will be coming back into my daily life, I’ve unsubscribed from half my list and deleted episodes stored up “just in case.” Heaven forbid I be without something to jam in my earholes!

I’m also declaring the start of my day a no-podcast-zone. Those precious couple of hours before the toddler spools up is when I meet with God, and I can’t really do that in a genuine way when I’m hopped up on someone else’s thoughts.


Final thoughts

Overall, this fast did exactly what I needed it to do. It cleared and focused my mind, enabled me to be more present with my kid, released anxiety and tension from my body, and made space for me to hear both my own voice and the voice of God.

I just hope I can remember all this the next time I find myself teetering on the edge of a breakdown with someone else’s voice shouting in my ears.


YOUR TURN!

I’d love to hear from you! Especially if you read all this.

Do you have fill up every empty moment to distract yourself from the stresses of adulting, too? What’s your vice? Have you been able to address it?

Share your story in the comments and lets support each other in our first-world, digital-age struggles!