The Ugly Place.

JCP_3649 bwY’all. MY HUSBAND.

We spent the weekend on a North Carolina lake watching the last vestiges of summer flicker and fade into fall, and Monday morning found two bleary-eyed Dickens hopping a dark-thirty flight back to Albany.

As I mindlessly scribbled a grocery list into my planner between flights, it hit me. Honey. Today is our six month anniversary!

Kellan grinned. I remembered.

Oh. Um, cool. Me too.

That evening, I made celebratory pie [my motives were one percent noble in that technically, Kellan does enjoy chocolate pie…and ninety-nine percent selfish because PIE.] and as we sat down, Kellan grabbed my toes.

Babe, you’re beautiful, but I’m worried about your feet. And gosh, your HANDS. I think we need to do something about this.

…come again?

Beaming, he pulled out a card. The chocolate pie of selfish-shame taunted me from the kitchen counter as I read the precious PS:

Those nails look like they need a little stylin’ to match the rest of you.

Y’all. That sweet man had called a local spa and spent HALF AN HOUR on the phone with a bewildered receptionist named Erin as he attempted to explain that he wanted to surprise his wife, and she liked “nail stuff”.

It’s hard to schedule a mani-pedi when you haven’t got the foggiest idea what in the world they are.

Kellan laughingly recounted how utterly baffled he’d been as the receptionist had explained a thousand different spa options [whatever a “french manicure” was, that was CERTAINLY out because AMURICA], and I melted into the floor because six months later, I love that man more than I could ever have imagined on March 2nd.

During our time at the lake, sweet friends made passing comments about our “honeymoon phase” status. Confused, Kellan and I mulled it over one night, and came to the unavoidable conclusion that we’d never really gotten a honeymoon phase. During one of our first evenings in our new Albany apartment as we unpacked boxes of clothes, we began to discuss how we ought to divvy up our closet. Before my wide-eyed, newly-minted husband knew what hit him, I was doubled over, wracked by uncontrollable sobs that seemed to have no end.

While I feel VERY strongly about having enough space for my shoes, clearly it had nothing to do with the closet.

Kellan was married to a woman who just missed her little brother. Who ached so badly and so deeply that she wanted to crawl into bed and stay there forever. There was no giggling, elated, blushing start to our marriage—we were rudely thrust into the raw ugly of it all from day one. Cancer had seen to that.

It has been precisely there, in that ugly, raw, aching, vulnerably helpless place, that I have fallen more deeply in love with my husband than I could have imagined on our wedding day. Before we were married, I fell in love with the man who made my heart flutter when he picked me up for dinner after I’d spent forty-five minutes carefully curling my hair. I have since fallen in love with the man who has held me on the bathroom floor as mascara poured down my face. The man who has stayed awake with me on long nights when nightmares left me too afraid to fall back to sleep. The man who spends time with Jesus first thing every morning, and prays for me last thing every night. I have fallen in love with the man who has learned to just ache with me over Ian’s death, because six months ago we became one person and Kellan signed on to hurt with me forever. And on the days when the lie that God is not good whispered, the truth of His goodness always rang louder because evidence of it stood in front of me sheepishly holding flowers.

Please don’t get me wrong—our marriage isn’t perfect. There’s nothing more defeating than reading about another perfect marriage, and if that’s what you’re looking for you need to find another blog because there’s no perfect to be found around here.  If your marriage needs a good fight, we can certainly give you some pointers. It’s probably the only marital advice we’re qualified to give at this point of our lives! But Kellan Dickens is such a very, very good gift to me. The way God loves me makes so much more SENSE to me than it did six months ago, because my husband mirrors it every day.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a dashingly handsome man that is stealing me away for breakfast before a confused manicurist does something very American to my nails. I’ll keep you posted. ;)


  1. just sent this link to my beloved man 0f almost 20 years because he’ll understand. Thank you

    Your post reminded me of this song

  3. I love you both so much, and my heart was deeply touched.

  4. :) I read this today at the ER (I’m good; my great uncle is sick). Ashley, you write so beautifully and in a way that brings hope to people going through seemingly hopeless situations. I love how IN you are to things (ie: your marriage, your walk with Jesus, through suffering). There needs to be more of that in the body, that fearlessness to walk through and press on with Christ.

    John Piper has a sermon where he talks about the woman who doesn’t fear because her confidence is so rooted in who God is. That reminds me a lot of you. Thanks for being an example in walking well with the Lord and walking through life well with the body.

  5. You be giddy, girl.

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