We didn’t really need stepping stones for the garden, but I wanted them. First of all, it would be adorable. Also, I like to be barefoot and the stones would be a nice way to keep my toes out of the muddy paths. Jonathan, always up for an adventure, agreed to the collection and so began our trek to get stepping stones.
We have access to a beautiful creek bed with plenty of large flat stones. Neither of us worried about the long walk or steep banks we had to climb. With backpacks strapped, we moved on with determination telling each other, “It will be fine.”
The trip down with empty packs was easy and full of wonder. We stopped to skip a few stones, then proceeded to search for the best flat stepping stones for the garden. We loaded the backpack until it was bursting and were ready to head out. This was our second trip and Jonathan had already done a load the week before. Not wanting to be weak, I boldly proclaimed I would take the pack if Jonathan loaded it on me.
Jonathan has never been an overprotective husband. If anything he pushes me beyond what’s comfortable reminding me I’m strong, but here he paused, “Are you sure?” He worried, “The last load was about 100 pounds and this load is probably more like 130 pounds.”
“Yes, I can do it.” I answered, and off we went. Breathing hard I was bent over like a troll with a boulder on her back. My 5’2” frame struggled to walk upright, but I trudged on convinced it would all be fine if I could adjust the straps on the pack. I twisted my arms around, gave a quick tug, and nothing happened. I tried again thinking if I could bend over and jump while I pulled the pack would move and I could complete this hike. What a terrible idea! The combined weight and momentum had me toppling over like a cartoon character. Cripled in the middle of the forest as the pack toppled sideways on my back I realized what a terrible choice I had made. “Jonathan!”, I screamed for help, “I did something stupid! Quick! I did something stupid.” I kept screaming. As he came running and saw my precarious position I was filled with relief knowing help was on the way.
This has been our life together. We have been in love for 12 years and yesterday marked our 10 year wedding anniversary. While still babies in marriage, we are very proud of the good life we have built together. We are unbelievably happy in love, but life has not always filled with good circumstances. We work extreme hours teaching and running businesses. Graduate work has stolen precious time together and we continue to grieve the death of Jonathan’s father. Both of us have struggled through our share of sickness. The thing is, these back-breaking, stone-filled moments have built us a strong foundation. When one partner is at their worst, the other shows up to help. When a partner has a heavy load, we guard against criticism and show up with love and support. We grow strong when we lift the other up. There are tears sometimes but we forgive quickly and believe laughter is far more welcome than complaints.
In the forest with my weight in stones on my back, I had yet again taken on an impossible challenge convinced I could handle it on my own. Jonathan did not make fun of me, laughter would come later. Without question, he took the load from me and carried it on his back. I had only walked 1/3 or the trip and the rest of the journey was muddy and uphill but on went my husband, strong and kind.
He could have given me a lecture about needing to work out more, – it’s true. He could have cursed the garden project I had thrust upon him- a fair point! This however is not how we have built a beautiful marriage. In low points feedback is unwelcome. Instead, we show up for each other. This is what builds a trustworthy team, a happy life, a loving marriage.
Faithfully Jonathan brought our creek stones back to the garden and now they lay as a reminder of the best parts of love. This is the love we strive for – strong beyond the fleeting emotions that run hot but instead permeates dow deep in the heavy, muddy moments of life. I have to believe, these choices will build us a love that will last another 10 years and beyond.
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