My wife Julie and I have known each other for three years. I wish we remembered the exact date. We don’t. We know it was either the second or fourth Wednesday in October of 2013 – around noon. We remember this because we know the exact place we met: the Toastmasters club at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Julie had joined the club the year before, and I was attending my second or third meeting, when we meet for the first time. Toastmasters was an ideal organization to help us become more polished, confident speakers and leaders. It was also a superb place to meet some cool new people.

In December 2013, Michelle – one of these cool people – gave a richly spiced presentation about making gingerbread Christmas ornaments. This confectionery expert whisked together a few words of advice and some incredibly flavorful stories. After her speech, Michelle presented each member of the club with a gingerbread person.

Two Christmases ago, when Julie and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple, we realized that we had both kept the gingerbread people. Unfortunately, due to my negligence, my ornament had its heart broken. Thankfully, love can heal a broken heart. After Julie put it back together, we merrily placed the ornaments on our tree.

Last year, after our move to Alexandria, we realized Julie’s ornament had broken into various pieces (this time due to the negligence of the movers). We carefully put the pieces together, but we did not glue them. The broken gingerbread person lied next to my patched up adornment for a few months. When Christmas came around, Julie glued it together.

Around the same time, our son Tyson made and decorated a gingerbread ornament at school. When he came home, he gleefully announced: “Mommy and Daddy, now I have a gingerbread man of my own to go along with yours.”

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Just like people, gingerbread ornaments can be a little finicky. Ours have never been fastidious. We just haven’t known how to take good care of them. We learned over time. But not before their heart crumbled or they shattered into pieces.

These ornaments have become for us a symbol – a motif of our marriage. They have told us how God brings us together in our brokenness and how healing happens when we take care of each other’s brokenness and when we align our hearts with one another and with God. They remind us that in a relationship negligence leads to scars, but care leads to healing and reconciliation.

These gingerbread people reminded us of the power of vulnerability. It takes real courage to risk being vulnerable. Living with vulnerability gives us opportunities to build our marriage on truth and love – places of great strength.