Three years into my marriage, my husband and I were still those people living off frozen pizza, hamburger helper, and anything with chicken and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.
Because of our schedules during those early years, my husband, Jeff, was the one who usually did the cooking. The unwritten rule was that whoever was home from work first was in charge of making dinner. This happened to be mostly Jeff.
That November we’d found out we were expecting our first child. To be honest, working as a full-time book editor and driving a 40-minute commute both ways was taking its toll on me.
During my pregnancy, I lost count of the times I’d fallen asleep in the ladies’ bathroom at the office. The restroom had one of those special rooms for women who were breastfeeding, and if you went in there around lunchtime, you’d probably find a large pregnant woman fast asleep — me. Fatigue was something I struggled with throughout all 9 months of being pregnant. Well, that, and disappearing ankles.
Despite the fact that Jeff was taking care of dinner most evenings, he still called me every day on my way home to discuss what was on the menu.
I tried not to let this get to me even though, really, I found it a little annoying after a while. I figured it was one of those “choose your battles wisely” things. But, really, how many times can you ask me if spaghetti’s okay and how many times can I say “I don’t care!”?
Several months into my pregnancy, I was driving home like normal. I was also swollen, exhausted, and feeling the beginning of a headache when my cell phone buzzed.
“Are fish sticks okay for dinner?” Jeff asked, to no one’s surprise, certainly not mine.
“Fish sticks? Fine, I don’t care,” I answered.
“Are you sure?”
“I said they’re fine.” Okay, so my headache was worsening.
About twenty minutes later I pulled into the garage and opened the door leading to the kitchen. As I stood in the doorway, my eyes went immediately to the pan on the stove with the already cooked fish sticks. I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it!
My husband was pulling two plates out of the cupboard.
“What? Dinner’s ready.”
“I know. How many fish sticks did you cook?”
He turned around and looked confused. “I made the whole box.”
Forty-four fish sticks. For the two of us.
I bit my lip and grinned. “Honey, don’t you think that’s a lot of fish sticks for two people?”
He looked at the pan with more than 40 fish sticks and then looked back at me. We were both smiling now.
“You’re probably right,” he said, seconds before we both started laughing.
I was crying from laughter by the time we sat down to dinner — probably a mixture of hormones and exhaustion and the fact that we had enough fish sticks to feed all of Colorado Springs.
As we prayed before we began to eat, I thanked God for these kinds of moments, for the blessing of marriage, and the gift of laughter.
Between the two of us, we ate maybe 8 fish sticks. I kept thinking to myself, This is one of those early marriage stories I never want to forget.
Do you know what I love about this memory?
I love that you can be tired and pregnant and want nothing more than to take a long, hot shower — and then something crazy can happen and you remember why you got married. Because having someone to laugh with is just so much fun. All it took for my attitude to change that night was a box of fish sticks.
Marriage is a gift. If you’ve been married more than ten minutes, you already know this, but I’ll say it anyway: You’re going to get on each other’s nerves sometimes. That’s a given. But remember to laugh. Remember to offer grace and remember why you’re there. You love this person and he loves you.
There will be moments in your marriage when the two of you feel miles away from each other. But there will also be moments when you both sit on the kitchen floor and laugh until you cry. It’s a journey and you’re on it together.
We’re a few more years down the road now, and I’m happy to say that our meals are no longer limited to foods that come in a box. Still, if someone mentions fish sticks, Jeff and I look at each other and smile.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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-- Sarah Martin, author of Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties in a Decade of Drama
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
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