Family,  Marriage,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings

Iron & Crystal: Thoughts on 15 Years of Marriage

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Russ and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary back in March (over five months ago). Besides being in an incredibly busy phase of life right now, I’ve put off writing this post because I knew the feelings I wanted to convey, but I wasn’t sure I could find the right words.

One of the biggest feelings I felt with this milestone was a sense of achievement coupled with relief…a feeling of “We’ve finally arrived.” Fifteen years ago, I vowed “forever.” While this wasn’t a promise I ever intended to break, marriage statistics don’t exactly favor longevity. So, fifteen years felt like something really…permanent. Not just something intended to be permanent, but something actually permanent because of 15 years of shared experiences glued together by love and grace and growth. We’ve built something stable and solid. Other words that come to mind are settled, established, rooted, invested, secure.

One thing we did as we were coming up on our 15th anniversary was get family pictures taken to commemorate the occassion. While we normally take family photos at a nearby Moravian historical site in the fall, I put it off until February. We return to this site every few years to see how our boys grow in comparison.

When we finished up with our pictures, the historical site had a blacksmith conducting a demonstration in the parking lot.

We have seen demonstrations like this before. Normally, this blacksmith will make a simple S hook to send home with observers, but this time Russ asked him if he could make a heart instead. In that moment, this blog post began forming in my mind, so I asked our photographer to keep shooting pictures.

The metaphor was right in front of me, begging to speak truth.

Iron as a picture of our marriage

The forge represents the life events we have shared and endured together. Two deployments, reintegration, multiple moves, a miscarriage, our son’s special needs, church changes, Russell’s mental anguish.

iron forge blacksmith

Over and over, God, the ever-wise and skilled Laborer, has thrust us into the flaming coals. The smoke sometimes clouded our vision, but the Laborer saw what we could become. We were heated, but not consumed.

iron forge blacksmith

The heat caused us to be malleable. Then the Laborer dropped his anvil. We were hammered and hurt, but not destroyed. We were bent and twisted, but not broken. 

iron forge blacksmith

iron forge blacksmith

Cool. Rinse. Repeat. The Laborer repeats the steps. Slowly, something takes shape. Something useful, something beautiful.

This afternoon, I did a bit of research into iron, Googling “iron properties.” According to Google, iron is “highly malleable and ductile.” “Malleable” I know, but what does “ductile” mean?

Able to be deformed without losing toughness; pliable, not brittle.

I love these contrasting ideas – flexibility, malleability, pliability contrasting strength without being brittle. Things that are brittle are far more likely to break or crumble.

I think these concepts fit our marriage perfectly. I believe we have a strong marriage, but it is also malleable – constantly being heated and shaped into something stronger, better, and more fit for use.


In the days leading up to our 15th anniversary, Russ banned me from checking Amazon or our checking account, because he didn’t want to spoil the gift that he got for me. The hints he gave me were negligible, and I was basically stumped as to what it could possibly be. I never would have guessed what he bought for me.

Swarovski crystal rose
Russ is holding the rose in his hands shaped like a heart, which is a symbol we often use with each other to communicate love without words.

Crystal as a picture of our marriage

Crystal is one of the “traditional” wedding gift symbols. I’m not sure who sat down in a boardroom and decided these things, but here we are:

“The traditional gift for the 15th anniversary is crystal. Like your time-tested marriage, crystal is bright, clear, and long-lasting.” ~

Swarovski crystal rose
Russ had a skilled gentleman from our church craft the wooden base for the rose.

“The traditional 15th-anniversary gift is crystal, an enduring material that symbolizes the lightness, clarity, and durability of your love.” ~

Swarovski crystal rose

“Crystal is the traditional gift theme associated with the 15th wedding anniversary, its beautiful facets signifying the dazzling splendour of a lasting happy marriage. As crystal is fragile and easily broken, so it reminds the couple to nurture their relationship to prevent it from breaking down.” ~ The Eternity Rose

Iron and crystal may seem like stark opposites, and I wouldn’t disagree. But I think they could be two sides of a coin. I love the words clarity and durability used above.

While our marriage has been forged like iron, we are also still very much fragile and delicate.

Swarovski crystal rose

Sometimes, one of us is the iron and the other is the crystal. Sometimes I have to be strong and flexible, because his mental struggles cause him to be fragile and delicate and easily broken. Other times, Russell’s personality and demeanor tends toward the hearty, strong, unaesthetic – yet useful – iron, while I balance those properties with delicate feminity, grace, brightness, clarity, and beauty. However, fifteen years of marriage and all of our shared experiences have taught us that both are absolutely needed.

This does not mean we have it all together. In fact, before we got married…like a year before we started our relationship, Russ said, “Aprille, we could never get married. We are like oil and water – we just wouldn’t mix.”

That truism had continued. Our vast differences impact us (and frustrate us) daily:

Russ is an external processor who analyzes (and reacts to) things rapidly, while I am a long-term thinker who craves quietness.

Russ a gregarious extrovert who needs adventure and novelty, while I am an introverted homebody who loves her bed and takes a long time to recover from social interactions.

Russ can be overbearing and overwhelming, while I can be resistant and withdrawn.

15th Anniversary

Russ can be such a goofball, but he never fails to make me laugh. I am awkward and clumsy, plauged by a run of broken bones and cut tendons – yet he loves how I play the piano and tenderly cuddle with our babies.

Russ struggles with anger and grasping for control when he’s anxious. I struggle with the harshness of perfectionism and grasping for control when things don’t measure up to my standards.

Russ described it this way: “Strained, but not separated. Difficult, but not drifting. Frustrating, but faithful.” 

15th Anniversary

The strength and resilience of iron and the beauty and delicacy of crystal are two ends of a spectrum. The fullness of this spectrum is needed for the longevity of a marriage. But more than that – what is the balance point that has carried us through 15 years of marriage? In spite of all of our differences, we continue to aim ourselves toward God and be transformed by His Word and His grace…because “in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17 ESV)

Iron and crystal may seem like stark opposites, and I wouldn't disagree. But fifteen years of marriage and all of our shared experiences have taught us that both are absolutely needed. In spite of all of our differences, we continue to aim ourselves toward God, because "in Him all things hold together."  

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