• Keonnie Janae

Gravel + Red Dirt

Updated: Apr 21

The paved road is a sick joke. A sick, cruel creation of the people who get all the good stuff. Screw the paved road and its yelling “all will work out” with a period at the end. Screw the idea that what you plan and how you plan to get there is some pothole-less, traffic free, windows down, no ambient noise 35 mph ride away. Screw the paved places.

When we got engaged, it felt right. It felt right because it was right. And it didn’t hurt that our own feelings of rightness were echoed back to us in likes, congratulations and free red wine. The ride of what felt right led us into planning and prepping. The ride of what felt right led us into packing up a 1 bedroom apartment in a Louisiana in a weekend. The ride of what felt right, the ride of what felt right, the ride of what felt right buckled us in and took us along. Until it suspended us upside down in the unexpected: unemployment.

For 4 ½ months, K was unemployed. I wish that looked less trite on paper. That number and its ugly little fraction need to be doing some heavy lifting. Lifting how many times we had to say no. How many times K had to hang her head because she depended on O for any money at all. How many times O journaled in frustration and confusion at K’s situation. We honestly could not count how many times we screamed and cried without resolution. We had been just above water in our single lives, made enough, saved enough, planned enough to live the lives we liked, if not all the time wanted. So we didn’t have years of saving. We didn’t have parents we could borrow from or who could cover for us. We just didn’t have enough.


Not having enough is hard. It’s hard and shameful and scary. It made us anxious and sad and angry.

The dream of our wedding was a deep root. We’ve known each other for 13 years. We loved each other for 6. We dated for 3. [ Insert drama and the kindness of God here]. Our wedding was already our redemptive triumph! We didn’t need anymore valley-to- mountain journeys. We’d done that. And now, we got to dig up our deep root. We thought.

But crying and praying on the floor of our newly rented first married townhouse, we cancelled our wedding. (We’re nothing if not dramatic.) Against all the daydream dust + determined blood in our bodies we felt the best way to steward our finances was to cancel our wedding. We emailed our venue. We returned our save the dates. We called our bridal party. What we told them was a lot like our prayer:

“We don’t know what is gonna happen. We are gonna walk in what we know God is saying yes to: our marriage. We are kinda hopeful. We still want this thing. We still want to a wedding full of celebration and worship and the gathering of our people. But we don’t know. And it pulling away of it… hurts.”

To the courthouse we went, alone. We got legally married. We moved in together. And we hoped and hurt together.

I mean, how do you live with disappointment? How do you day in and day out pretend that you aren’t staring angrily at this hairy, hungry gaping hole? We didn’t know.

How do you mourn walking down the aisle?

How do you mourn the vows you haven’t written?

How do you just give up a white dress and a first dance and “I now pronounce..?”

How do you pretend that everything is fine when you hands are still out and nothing is growing? Nothing shows up.


We coveted weddings we attended. We cried bitterly driving away from receptions. We angrily gossiped about our friends’ honeymoons. We yelled at each other out of our own hurt. We grasped the other’s hands wordlessly when yet another invitation came up in the mailbox.


No one’s good at mourning. No one earns a Scout patch for giving up stuff with a smile. Constantly, we were trying to return to this thing we’d been taught, this foreign idea that God could be trusted. We had to show up to another. We had to tell each other the ugly stuff that was growing in the hairy hungry hole of disappointment. We had to to show up for another. We had to push each other up out of the hole even as we still sat it in. We fought for hope. We fought. And we did not always win. By the time the new year came around, K was employed. By the following month, we had found a more reasonable venue, our photographer stayed with us and K’s parents moved high water and some other things to pay for our catering. Our friends demanded we ask them for help. So we sent out evites, gave up some ideals and leaned heavily on our people. That new road of provision was straight gravel and red dirt. It was messy and too loud. It went 80 mph and barely inched along. But the ruts we made in it, the well-known trail we made ourselves by over and over again confessing our heart sickness bred from disappointment led us to the  best day of our lives so far: our wedding. On top of a mountain in North Georgia, we learned that the faithfulness and provision of God is not getting everything you asked for, it’s not the removal or absence of hard things. The faithfulness and provision and loving kindness of God is that our good good God is endlessly giving of Himself, never ceasing access to all that He is in every season. God comes near, God stays and there is good fruit from that.

Note: this was originally published in the original Grace Midtown book, found here.

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