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”

The small mercy of an almost parking ticket

I deserved to get a parking ticket after what happened. But I didn’t. And that made me feel some things.

I put all my money in the meter for an hour and a half in the public parking lot, way more than was strictly necessary. If it took the dentist longer than that to file down one pointy filling, I would definitely have to switch docs.

When my “you have 10 minutes until your meter expires” alarm went off, I asked the receptionist if everything was okay. She hustled away, then back, then speed-walked me into a chair at the back.

In and out in under 3 minutes after waiting for over an hour past my appointment time.

Five minutes left on the meter.

I did my own speed walk through the winding corridors of the mall, sprinting across the street to my car. And as I passed the huge SUV parked next to me, I saw it: yellow paper folded into my windshield wipers.

A parking ticket.

I looked down through the glass and saw that my dash was empty. I must have left the car unlocked and someone took it. Frustrating, but not unusual downtown.

I swore not quite under my breath and snatched up the ticket, already planning to fight it, even without the proof of the missing receipt, boiling with righteous indignation.

I unfolded the paper and, instead of a list of charges, it said: 

“Please ensure your ticket is displayed on the dash. Have a good weekend.”

That’s when I noticed the white paper lazing upside down on the steering column. My heart tied itself in a knot. It must have slipped off when I shut the door earlier.

I reached out and turned it over.

A parking lot ticket showing the time

One minute to spare.


This happened last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I even keep the ticket up on the kitchen shelf where I can remember it as an object lesson.

Parking enforcement is srsbizns in downtown Hamilton. I’ve been ticketed for parking within 30cm of a driveway and for being parked too long at the curb despite having moved my car two blocks because the chalk on my tire ended up in the same position as it started.

Ruth. Less.

But that day? The day when I was whizzing through task after task–both for the big move and my nascent freelance biz–and was frazzled after being patient too long with an overflowing dentist’s office?

That day, I got mercy.

When I didn’t deserve it. When it was my fault for breaking the rules. When it would’ve been a poetically just cap to my hectic, frustrating day.

Because that’s when mercy matters: when we least deserve it.

Not getting a parking ticket is a small thing. But the relief I felt, the rush of endorphins when I realized the parking officer had every right to punish me and chose not to–that mattered. It straightened my perspective. It reminded me to hold on a little looser, to breathe a little deeper–to remember that love shows up in the strangest places but never fails to change things.

It also reminded me to make sure my dang receipt is on the dash next time. Geez.

State of the Ellie: July 2019

The (not so) brief summary of my June. Featuring a revised timeline, freelancing joy, receiving help with grace, and nothing being wrong with my hearing apparently.

A grey short hair cat with a takeout box on its head that says "supreme"

The State of the Ellie is a monthly reflection on what’s been going on in my world for the last 30ish days (a bit delayed this month because life).

I don’t know about you, but my June was IN-SANE. Just looking back at my day planner is stressing me out, and it’s stuff I’ve already done.

Let’s see if I can break down the madness into bite-sized chunks.

Florida

Honestly, not a lot happened with this in June. Which is sort of the refrain of this year’s song. We continued to prune our house and make arrangements with doctors, etc, but aside from the plan finally going public, we had to pause everything for the vow renewal (see below). I’ve certainly grown a lot in terms of being able to spin more plates than ever, but handling an international move and a (re)wedding at the same time is too much for one human.

BUT! We spoke with our pastors and an immigration lawyer this week, and yada yada yada we’re staying in Hamilton at least until November 1–together. (And this could get changed again, depending on processing times.)

Which, I realized after having a meltdown about more delays, is actually a relief. Now we don’t have to DO ALL THE THINGS in the next three weeks, plus we’ll be here when my new niece arrives. And, you know, not splitting up the family for an indefinite amount of time is certainly a bonus.

Work

Is it unprofessional to say I’m shocked at how well this is going? Because I am a bit. Since going freelance in May, I’ve started working with a handful of clients who have super interesting, fun projects on the go, and I love that I get to help them bring their writing babies into the world! I even made each one their own themed Trello board. And now that Lino is home, he and I split the childcare week, meaning I get three whole days to do whatever I want (read: work like I’m on fire), so although I’m busy, I’m also more productive and more peaceful than I have been in my working life for a long time.

There’s room to grow, though! I’m always looking for editing and writing gigs, and there are only 3 consultation spots available. If you or someone you know needs a boost on their writing project, let’s talk!

Money

This part is…less good. While I’m bringing more to the table these days, June saw Lino’s last official paycheck after being laid off. He’s applied for employment insurance, but it hasn’t started yet, and our savings are dwindling. We’re cobbling together a best-case scenario for both of us to work, pay the bills, have Mack taken care of, and also prepare for the eventual exodus. It’s a lot. And we’re scared. But. Some embarrassingly-kind people have stepped in to help us out: two gave us unsolicited grocery cards, one threw huge bags of frozen meat at us and ran away, many are inviting us over for dinner. God is taking care of us. We might be living way closer to the edge of disaster than we’re comfortable with, but that’s where He does His best work.

Parenting

Mackenzie continues to be three. The fact that I can’t think of much in the way of wins and losses tells me that either I’m getting acclimatized to toddler life or I’ve lost my mind. Our day to day is a whirlwind of activities, meltdowns, laughter, half-eaten food, and wondering if I can get away without bathing her for another day because it’s already so late and she doesn’t smell like pee so it should be fine right. I will say she’s loving having Daddy home on the regular, although it’s been quite a mental adjustment for Lino. He’s gone from a high-stress corporate management job handling hundreds of employees and millions of dollars to a high-stress small human management job with one employee and no dollars. He loves it, though. They’re so stinkin’ cute together.

Love

Of everything that happened in June, our 10-year anniversary and vow renewal was far and away the best. There was a fair amount of drama leading up to it–mostly because I panicked and bought a totally different dress, then had the tailoring adventure of a lifetime and didn’t get it until the day before the ceremony–but! like all major events you plan yourself, once the day rolled around, everything went perfectly. Keep your eyes peeled for an awww-inducing post as soon as the photos are ready.

My favourite part, though, wasn’t the ceremony or the party. It was the next day when my husband turned to me after a long silence and said, “I know it’s stupid because it’s not actually different, but it just feels different today, you know?” Nothing could have made me happier. Because it is different. That’s the whole point.

Health

On one hand, I’m happily exercising sans gym by doing physio stretches and walking around the stadium weekday mornings (thank you, 5am Club). On the other hand, the ENT appointment I waited four months for to diagnose my constant low-grade cold symptoms and a slow but appreciable hearing loss turned up exactly nothing. I managed to hold it together afterward just long enough to make it to the bathroom where I burst into tears that didn’t stop until I got back to my car. I have a history of being “too early” with things happening to/in my body; I report illnesses and wonkiness long before it’s of concern to doctors. And this is no exception, it seems. I was given a prescription for FloNase and welcomed to being middle aged. It broke my heart. For now, I suppose I’ll keep going to the doc too early and asking people to talk louder until the day it’s bad enough to get help.


That’s it for me this month! Tune in the first week of August to hear how July went.

Now it’s your turn!
Share your June thoughts and July plans in the comments.

How we killed and resurrected our marriage: a 10-year anniversary story

No one’s more surprised that we’re still married than my husband and me. By all rights, we shouldn’t be. Let me tell you the story. [VIDEO]

I never expected to be married for 10 years.

Hell, I never expected to be married at all.

And six years ago, I expected to be divorced by now.


Lino and I haven’t had an easy marriage. It started out strong—we coasted on the heady fumes of infatuation way longer than most couples—but when the rosy glow wore off, things broke bad. Real bad.

I’m talking lies, gaslighting, manipulation, cheating, separation.  Horrible stuff. No one would’ve blamed us for walking away. In fact, most of our friends and family gently (and not so gently) encouraged us to do just that. Sometimes we encouraged it, too.

While we didn’t hate each other, we sure as hell didn’t like each other—not to speak of love. Everything about our relationship screamed divorce. And yet, no matter what awfulness we perpetrated against each other, we stayed together.

But rather than try to explain WHY in writing, I want to tell you in person.

So grab your drink and settle in. It’s story time.

Click here to read/download the transcript.

Now, I tell you that story to tell you this one:

This weekend, Lino and I are renewing our vows.

Ten is the number of completion, so our 10th anniversary is the perfect time to close the book on the story of our old marriage and to forge a new covenant, to start a new life with Christ at the center.

We’re bringing every broken promise, every wound, every sin to the altar where we’ll repent and forgive, washing away our past, then make new vows to honor one another and the God who’s always had our backs, even when they were turned on each other.  

Honestly, it’s more like a baptism than a wedding.


I don’t know what the next ten years will hold. While our relationship is wildly better than it was, it’s not perfect (not that it ever will be). We still fight, still ignore each other, still overwork, still cling to old hurts. We’re still human.

But what I do know is that the God who started a good work in us is faithful to complete it—and he’s done some killer work so far. The three of us are on an adventure together, walking the long road from where we started to where we’re going, and only one of us knows the way. So Lino and I will follow, carrying only what we need as we start this next phase of the journey, our eyes on the horizon, watching as the sun rises on a new day.


“If anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new.” [2 Corinthians 5:17 TPT]

State of the Ellie: June 2019

A (not so) brief summary of my May. Featuring a 90-day no-spending challenge, being okay with talking about my marriage, and the shock of missing working out. Read all about it, then share your May with me!

A woman asleep on a pile of open books holding several coffee cups on strings like balloons

The State of the Ellie is my monthly reflection on what’s been going on in my life for the last 30ish days. Everything you ever wanted to know but weren’t sure you should ask.

WORK

In perhaps the least-planned launch of my life, I went official with my writing and editing services last month, which is exciting! and scary! and wow! The announcement only went out two weeks ago, so I’m not full up yet, but I have a handful of leads/offers already, which is rad. I’m also hanging out the ol’ shingle on freelancer sites (they’re so competitive and official that it’s intimidating) and setting up a LinkedIn profile. So there’s that.

One of my biggest work goals is to get back to regular writing. I’m starting small: publish one blog post per week. This sounds ridiculous to me since I did that for years, but a four-year break weakens even the strongest muscles. I also want to write monthly short fiction. And write another novel. And run a writing workshop. And and and. One step at a time.

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer on the blog or topics you’d like my take on, leave me a note in the comments! Writing prompts are super helpful to get me moving.

MONEY

Obviously, the big news on this front is Lino being let go from his job. We spent the second half of May preparing the budget (and our souls) for what will be a massive shift in expectations. It’s going to be tight. Tighter than tight. But through a lot of late-night talks and a lot of prayer, we’ve agreed that this is actually a good thing. Lino has been struggling with golden handcuffs and relying on work for his sense of worth. Now, he’s free. The plan is for him to take EI for a couple of months while I ramp up freelancing (and possibly find a part-time job) to make up the difference. In the meantime, he’ll be growing his not-for-profit, connecting with related organizations, volunteering in the community, and serving more at our church. Come August, we’ll be off and running again, I’m sure! Until then, we’re cutting unnecessary expenses, eating more simply, and trusting God to provide as we go through this lean season. Think of it as a 90-day, no-spending, no-grocery challenge.

PARENTING

This category used to be called “baby,” but since she turned three, I feel compelled to change it.

Toddler life is a daily encounter with a double-edged sword. One side is bottomless wonder, curiosity, delight, and love; the other is unrepentant rebellion, fury, manipulation, and defiance. The first side is amazing. Her innocent joy is infectious and has done miracles in me. She’s asking more and better questions every day, and walking her through how the world works is deeply happy-making for me. Those are my favourite moments of the day.

It’s that second side that’s the trouble. That edge cuts deeper, more fatally. And when it’s your first kid, you don’t know the best way to equip yourself for battle–what armor, shield, tools, and weapons you need to both defend yourself and to land tactical blows that knock them down but don’t destroy them. Some days, you get it right. Most days you don’t. With Mack, she’s just upgraded her arsenal, and I am not doing a great job of keeping up. Like, she’s doing less acting out/blatant disobedience and way more emotional stuff now. She’s saying things like “I don’t love you” and “I want people to be sad” to hurt me on purpose. And it does hurt.

Honestly, there’s a lot of yelling right now. At the end of the day, we’re both exhausted. Logically, I know this is her growing, testing limits, searching for holes in the fence to make sure she’s safe, that I’m consistent and really who I say I am. But the older she gets, the less I see her as a baby and more as a tiny adult, so when she’s coming at me like a teenager, it takes a huge mental effort for me not to respond in kind. Not cool, mom.

This is (as always) an exercise in day-to-day grace. For me and for her. New mercies every day.

At least she’s potty trained now.

LOVE

I’m…hesitant to write anything here. Which feels silly given how open I’ve been in the past (I even got up in front of hundreds of people at Easter and talked blatantly about how we almost got divorced). But over the years, I’ve developed a reticence towards talking about stuff that involves other people. Part of that is from becoming visibly Christian. While a lot of my inner critics fled the scene when Jesus arrived, I did gain a new one by accident: the fear of what my faith family will think of me being super vulnerable and overshare-y online.

But you know what? No. That’s just another lie I’m buying into that smothers my soul, and I’m not beholden to that BS anymore.

Lino and I are actually doing great! Although the past couple of years have been a blind-corner rollercoaster due to the struggles with his work, the moment we found out that was over, it was like a switch flipped inside of him. All the weight, stress, and worry he’d been carrying–the poisons leaking into our marriage and keeping us from being close–evaporated. He even shaved his beard, which I do like when trimmed to Tony Stark proportions, but was long and smelled like stale coffee and was getting up my nose, which resulted in less kisses (and other things *waggles eyebrows suggestively*) than we’d like. We’re also united in purpose in a way we’ve been longing for since we stopped LARPing (if you don’t know what that is, message me. Have I got a story for you). Yet another way that the job loss has been more helpful than anyone could rightfully expect. As we go into the summer, we’re both paying closer attention to one another, being intentional about our precious time, and finding our intimacy again after spending so many years living under the same roof as strangers.

HEALTH

Man. This has been all over the place in May. I’m pretty sure I had the same cold all month in various stages, which added another level of difficulty to everything. But my hip surgery recovery went swimmingly, aside from the usual muscle weakness, butt pain, and whatever is making my neck weak (probably my phone) that we’re dealing with in physio.

The most shocking health thing for me, though, is that I MISS THE GYM. I have never even thought that sentence in my entire life. I had to stop at the start of April because surgery, but my gym accidentally cancelled my contract instead of holding it for the six weeks I needed off. So, no lifting for me. I can feel my weight creeping back up as my strength fades, and it is not cool. My body is antsy, and I need a bigger calorie allotment, dammit. There are cakes to bake. So I may have to take up actual running. Please don’t watch.

MISCELLANEOUS

My dear baking-nerd friend and I made the most incredible lemon and strawberry rolled cake the other day and you guys don’t even know. I also frosted Mackenzie’s three-tiered birthday cake with a butter knife and am immensely proud. The challenge of tackling a project more complicated than banana bread has become a surprising source of satisfaction this past year. I’ll never be a pro, but it feels so good to make something with my hands.

I’ll probably write a proper article about this soon, but I bought all three of Austin Kleon’s books on creativity for myself for Mother’s Day, and I cried three times reading the first one in public. They’re ministering to my soul. And changing how I want to interact with social media: less noise, more art, more learning.

I’m also trying to figure out how to do meal planning for a family of three on a major budget, so suggestions are greatly appreciated.


Your turn! What was May like for you? What are you looking forward to (or dreading) in June? Share in the comments!