Written By: Mary-Lyn Vandolder
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in her fairy-tales. She dreamed of her Prince Charming, of sun dappled rides on unicorns past towering towers and through melodious meadows, of evil curses broken with true love’s perfect kiss. As a small child, she would spend hours drawing pictures of her wedding dress while dreaming of a grand ball where her Prince would take one look at her and sweep her off her feet, out of her everyday life as fireworks flashed and angelic choirs sang. As she grew she’d imagine the romantic words of poetry and passion that her true love would endearingly whisper as he poured out his heart; a heart that beat only for her.
Real life was often difficult and scary and the girl would withdraw into her fairy-tales for comfort; clinging to her childhood dreams like a security blanket. As so often happens to childish dreams, reality simply couldn’t measure up. No man could. No real romance. But still this now young woman held out hope for her Prince Charming.
When I met James it wasn’t anything like I’d imagined. He seemed nice but not very exciting. The good friend of a new friend. There weren’t any of the fireworks I’d believed would suddenly shoot into the sky announcing my one true love. No breathless gazing into each other’s eyes knowing in our hearts we were meant for each other, before we even knew each other’s names. Over the next year we developed a good friendship which developed into love. A love that once sparked, grew quickly into a blaze. A woman head over heels in love, I was still dreaming of romance and flowery prose, so one night during our engagement I asked James why he loved me. What I wanted to hear was a litany of praises to my beauty, my goodness, my many virtues. Instead I heard the words, “Because I decided too.” I was so angry! Because he decided too!! What is romantic about that?! Love is supposed to be a euphoric FEELING not a DECISION!
It didn’t take long for me to realize what an incredible gift he had given to me that night. Romance and pretty prose are great for a moment, but they aren’t something you can build a life on. Falling in love is a wonderful feeling, but staying in love takes commitment. In ‘deciding’ to love me, James was making a decision, a commitment, to love me when I wasn’t lovely, when I lost my temper, made dumb decisions with our money, when I no longer looked like the young woman he’d fallen in love with, when I suffered with chronic illness for years, when I didn’t love myself or anyone else. He was deciding to love me and stand by me for the rest of our lives. Feelings may change, but a decision made and honoured stands. Please understand, feelings are definitely a part of it. They start the process if you will. The decision comes in deciding to honour and grow the feeling or let it fade.
Three times in Song of Solomon (2:7, 3:5, 8:4) the Bible says
“I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases.”
James understood that he was responsible for what he did with his feelings. Loving me was a decision that followed a feeling.
The fairy-tales never talked about whether Prince Charming rubbed Cinderella’s back when morning sickness kept her bent over their porcelain throne. Or about Prince Erik’s reaction when his Princess wrinkled the new chariot. Or how the king responded when he learned the miller’s daughter not only couldn’t spin straw into gold but that she made some bad decisions that cost gold instead. When the evil stepmother tried to destroy his bride did the King stand by her or cast her out? Fairy-tales are just that, fairy-tales. Loving this amazing man I married has taught me so much. He’s not perfect but none of us are. Through his love and behaviour I have come to a greater understanding of God’s love for us. God made a decision before He had even formed this earth that He would create us and love us no matter what. Regardless of our actions, He loves us. When we grieve His heart, He still loves us because He doesn’t change.
In less than 2 months James and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I am still in awe that God brought this incredible man into my life and that he made the decision to love me. The decisions that we have made regarding our commitment to each other has meant that although hard times have come, we, and our marriage, have become stronger. We aren’t fairy-tale characters, we are imperfect people living in the real world. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. ❤
Mary-Lyn Vandolder is a wife, who, after almost 25 yrs, still goes weak in the knees in her husband’s arms, a proud mother of 3 amazing children, Jenna, Faith and Adam, and mother-in-law of Nathan, and, most importantly, Child of the King. A stay-at-home mom who never quite learned how to stay at home, she and her husband, James, have been active in their church in many capacities, from leadership to church maintenance. Mary-Lyn has a passionate heart to see young women who have had difficult pasts find freedom and healing in Christ. She loves volunteering at the Windsor Life Centre and seeing women set free from addictions, in addition to mentoring young women on a one-on-one basis. With God in her life, her childhood dreams have expanded and, still an avid dreamer, she is excited every time she can help a wounded soul learn to dream again. As a Doula, she also counts it an honour to minister to pregnant women and assist with the miracle of new lives. She has witnessed numerous miracles and much healing in her life and lives to see the same in others!