I don’t know how the argument started, just that it started
in the middle of my favorite show and went on way, way too long. One minute we
were cuddled up on the sofa, bodies softly conforming to each other, breathing
and hearts synchronized; then somehow it was three hours later, and we were at
opposite ends, balled up in individual protective shells.
Maybe it was because I cried when the wife wound up back in
the kitchen after her “kooky scheme” to be a jazz musician failed. Maybe it was
because I laughed too hard when the husband’s prized Chevy was crushed by a falling
Whatever it was turned our romantic comedy into a soap opera.
There were dramatic monologues, significant pauses, impassioned pleas, artful
tears—all reaching a shrill crescendo, then fade to black.
I waited until the end of the anthem before I looked up with
breath drawn for another try. But all I saw was the test pattern reflected in
his eyes. Perfectly blank grey and black circles.
That’s when I knew it was time to leave. That’s when I knew that nothing worth staying for would be broadcast on his channel ever again.
This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.
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”
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.
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]
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!