Living the Dream

How long have you been married? When did you meet? Were you highschool sweethearts?

I met my husband in Kindergarten and I just loved him! 

My love continued to grow and within two years I told my 2nd grade teacher, "I am going to marry Joel Zehnder." 

Our friendship continued to grow and in the 6th grade we finally made it official when Joel asked me to be his girlfriend! I was over the moon! Convinced we would never break up and would for sure grow old together…

We dated for one year and one month until he broke up with me because it was summer and he didn't need my help with homework anymore! (He will deny this, but it's true! Ha!) 

I never cried so hard.

Luckily, we were able to mend our friendship and remain best friends, giving each other girlfriend/boyfriend advice all through high school and into the early days of college. 

Then one night as we were hanging out, and I was totally at peace that we would never be together, he decided to say, "I think we should give the dating thing another try." What?! 

I'll skip some details of sweet pursuit and ups and downs and fast forward to standing at my family's Thanksgiving gathering in Georgia where we dug up a 10-year time capsule. In it were Joel’s and my Disney wristbands with the inscription, "'98 JZ & AM" and a picture of us from the 7th grade dance that said, "This is Joel Zehnder. He's the man I was supposed to marry, but since THAT'S NOT GONNA HAPPEN, I still thought it'd be nice for you to remember him and his friendship." Ironically enough, we had just got engaged that October. I cannot tell you the tears that were shed. My love for him ran so deep. My dream to be his wife was so strong. 

Zehnder wedding

I share this with you because while my love for him has been there since I was 5, some days our marriage is really hard. I married my best friend, and some years- yes, I said years- our marriage has been really hard.

I had dreams about what marriage would be like and it's not what I thought. I can't say that it's better or worse; it's just different. Maybe one day we will be in that glorious moment of sipping coffee in the morning sun or long romantic walks on the beach, but right now we are still in the season of raising three children ranging from toddler to teenager, so there’s a lot of spilled milk and dirty laundry to wash. It's chaotic to say the least.

Because I have loved him since the 2nd grade, and dreamed of what our life would look like, I often tease, "Oh yeah, I'm 'living the dream!'" in the MOST sarcastic way, but really I am! 

I am deeply loved by a man who is faithful, loyal, and kind. I have learned that his frustration is a cover for deeper emotions that I can walk alongside him and love him through. He has learned that my moodiness is cyclical and he gives me space when I need it. We know how to make each other angry, how to forgive, and love each other so, so well. 

What a gift to know someone on such a deep and meaningful level.

Maybe one day we will figure it out fully, but what I do know is there is no perfect human love. Just Jesus. He is the only one who loves perfectly. The other thing I know, I really am "living the dream" with a husband who loves me unconditionally and shows up for this family every single day in all its #wonderfulchaos and glory. 

How did you and your spouse meet and what are you doing in your marriage today to support one another through the ups and downs?

1 comment

  • Mandy, I love this, and you and of course God’s design for connected marriage. So, there’s that. Thank you for sharing your love story with me. It’s so personal and special. I feel like I know you better. Mike and I have been together for 42 years, married for 39. After all these years, there are still hard moments but usually not seasons. I’d say that’s because we continue to learn to love each other better each day. We continue to watch for the opportunity to explore the other’s hopes, dreams and personalities. Got created each of us as such amazing and complex people that I don’t believe we’ll ever completely understand each other. But that’s what makes waking up each day together special. Keep pursuing each other, even if one hand has a dirty dish and the kids are screaming. Stay connected by showing up for each other daily, predictibly with Habits of Connection that show you can rely on each other every day.


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