Okay, so I am on day 38 of my 40 day challenge that started this blog….the day after tomorrow will mark 10 years of marital bliss for the Buxton’s (okay if I am keeping it real… many of the days were not bliss….so maybe I should say 9 years of bliss and a lot of days of two adults acting like juveniles trying to figure out how to stay married without killing each other!) I’ll just say 10 years of marriage…that’s more honest!

 I’m trying to figure out how to wrap up this blog in two days and not leave my readers hanging.  Some of you have asked me to keep the blog going….well I definitely will take a break for our anniversary and Christmas.  But I’ve been thinking about some of the post marriage tough times Joe and I faced that I could write about that might give some of you encouragement….like how a week after we were married, Joe was told by a family member that by choosing to marry me ‘he had made his choice’ which led to two years of not speaking his family.  I could write about the emotional whirlwind of our first three pregnancies ending in miscarriage.  Then there is how God used a hurtful experience while on staff at a church to point Joe to his purpose in life (being a counselor).  Oh and there are lots of financially rough periods….just two years ago neither of us had full time jobs and Joe was a garbage man for the seminary (NO JOKE…between us we had three master’s degrees and he left the house everyday to go drive a trash truck!)

 We have packed a lot of living into 10 years and maybe in the new year I can occasionally carve time out to tell about some of them.  It is not likely that I will be writing every day like I have been, so if you are interested in reading once I start back up it might be good for you to sign up on my blog page for email notices and it will let you know when I begin posting again….For now….let’s wrap up the story I’m telling.

 Forty days without food.  I really didn’t know it was possible.  I had read about Jesus doing it in the Bible, but He’s Jesus and I am Holly!  The books all said that the first week is the toughest and they were sure right.  (I’m really not sure what was tougher…giving up food or giving up coffee….)  After that first week, though it did not ever become easy, fasting became almost habitual.  When my mind and body craved food, I would sip on fruit juice and then head to my prayer closet.  I literally had a prayer closet during those days.  Many days I would grab my pillow and head down to a small study room on our dorm floor and bury my head in that pillow and cry out to God.  I spent hours on end reading my Bible and searching for answers for my questions, “What next God…what next?” 

During those days, I memorized a passage of Scripture that I have now claimed as my ‘life passage’…I literally believe these words written almost 2000 years ago by the apostle Paul, gave me my life back.  Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV) 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Press on.  That is what this passage urged me to do.  Verse 12 reminded me that Jesus had taken hold of me for a reason.  I longed to fulfill, “that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  Though my heart still ached, over those days I could begin to see a bigger picture.  That picture did not include the man that I had promised my future to just months before.  Though there is not time here to write out all that happened to me in those days of fasting, I will tell you that each day I woke up with a renewed energy and a sense of urgency.  An urgency to refocus my life on things above and to press on with my eyes fixed on Christ.  There were still many tears, but deep in the recesses of my mind I knew that God had spared me from even greater pain. . . divorce.  There is no doubt in my mind that if the deception had not come out prior to the wedding, that marriage would likely not have even lasted a year.

I found myself asking God ‘why?’.  The question was not “why did you allow this pain?”  My question for God was, “Why did you spare me from an even greater pain?”  I still don’t know the answer to that one.  I have known great women of God who have married a man that later defiled their marriage bed.  They were not spared the pain of divorce, so why was I?   

That is one of the miracles that took place during those 40 days.  A young twenty-two year old girl began to see her circumstances through a different lens.  No longer did I focus on the pain I was experiencing, but I began to praise God that I had been spared.  I didn’t know why he had spared me but as I meditated on the words of Philippians 3, it was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes and I could look forward with hope instead of looking back at the pain.  

My last weeks of college were filled with true joy.  .  .as they should have been.  There were genuine smiles.  I have many fond memories with friends in that last month of college.  I began making plans for my future and though many things were not clear, God was giving me the courage and strength to look ahead with hope. 

As I walked across that graduation stage to receive my diploma, I knew in my heart that the same God that had directed my path to that college would direct my path as I was leaving.  With bags packed and vehicles loaded down, I set off on a new adventure.  Holly Higle, Environmental Specialist for the Environmental Protection Agency.  It was definitely not the place I had dreamed I would be that following summer, but it is exactly where God wanted me to be so that He could direct me on the path that would lead me to Joe.

You won’t want to miss the next one…the moment Joe and I met…the day that Joe’s girlfriend introduced us to each other (hehehehehe!!!!!!)

Let me leave  you with just a few of the pictures of the joys I experience today because I chose to look beyond the pain and press on….

The joy of passing on my love for Snoopy…

The ever growing Snoopy Christmas collection!  Poor Joe this year the tree is in our bedroom.

The joy of slumber parties in the living room lit by the christmas tree and warmed by the fireplace!  (look closely at Joe’s pants… yep, that is Joe Cool pants he has on…I LOVE that guy!)

The joy of priceless moments like hearing the honesty of the kids as they explained that they are good most of the time and only fight a little!

The joy of being married to a man who loves to play as much as the kids do….

Indeed I was spared for even greater joy!