Happy Anniversary!

Hiiii!  As I start working to come out of hibernation mode after a glorious and much-needed break, I thought I would take two seconds and celebrate my wedding anniversary by introducing you to my husband.   🙂

Chaya and Moty's wedding day

How did a strong-willed, small-town girl from Texas end up married to a “foreigner” with a long bushy beard and bad English?! Since many of you first crossed my path in a previous lifetime (no joke the past decade feels like a lifetime!), I thought it might be fitting to share a little backstory.

For now, I’ll give you a brief summary.  If you want to read the full story, you can click here: https://menachemmendelacademy.com/our-founders/

Chaya and Moty

The ugly truth is that 2008 – 2011 were the hardest years of my life, hands down.  And most of it was by my own doing.  Without going into the gory details, I will share two silver linings from that season of clouds:

  1. God ALWAYS gives you enough strength for your journey and tasks.  It’s part of the contract He’s made with humanity.  (What happens is that we usually just sell ourselves short and quit when we feel the awkward, painful discomfort of leaving our comfort zone.)  But, be careful what you wish for.  Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, we should be aware that our prayers won’t always be delivered in the packaging we’re expecting.  I prayed for truth with my whole heart, and what I discovered was more psychedelic than the storyline from Alice in Wonderland’s trip down the rabbit hole.  Separating the wheat from the chaff is a very painful process, and I almost didn’t survive it.  But as the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  Sometimes to get to our mountain peak experience, we must be willing to fight our way through the deepest, darkest valleys.  This season of my life turned out to be like the scene in The Matrix where I had to decide if I really wanted to know the truth, or if I preferred to go back to sleep and live in a pretend world.  This was the case for me with my career, my faith, and my family.  The process of shattering my glass house and re-building it piece by piece literally rocked me to my core (and left my family thinking I had gone nuts).
  2. Our darkest hours will always lead to our brightest lights – if we can become willing to push forward, learn the lesson, and embrace the journey.  Even though I had two miscarriages, a divorce, financial disaster, battled an eating disorder and lived like girls gone wild after an emotional breakdown during this season, I also had my son, met my knight in shining armor, and realized that I had my own hero status deep within me, waiting to break free like a caged animal.  Still to this day, I am often tempted to look back at this phase with agonizing guilt and shame.  But then I remember that I don’t have to carry that emotional toxicity from my past into my present.  When I can release the negative charge from the emotions, only the wisdom of the lesson remains.

Now, what does all of that have to do with my new husband and wedding anniversary?  Absolutely everything.  Because the way we choose to show up for life every single day determines our destiny.  If he and I had met as kids, we would have totally repulsed each other at best, and killed each other at worst.

Chaya walking down the aisle on her wedding day

We had both been married before – for 12 years each.  And we each had our own lessons to learn along the way.  But we went into this marriage very differently.  First of all, we had both made the choice to become Torah-observant Jews, so that alone changed the rules of the game.  But we only had one official date before we got married, and I wouldn’t even call it a date.  More like a business meeting.  We came with a list.  Scratch that…I came with a list of priorities, dreams, and fears.  We discussed them all, negotiated “terms” and made a conscious decision to commit.  Don’t get me wrong…we knew each other very well by that point after working together for two years.  But from the beginning, our relationship has been a partnership and friendship that led to a conscious marriage.

We’ve been on a roller coaster ride since then.  One year traveling the globe, three years in Australia, then two back in the USA working on a world-changing mission. Our life hasn’t been easy.  There are honestly many days where I have to remind myself that I chose this life, it wasn’t forced on me, and I would choose it all over again.

The day I stopped living my life based on what I thought everyone else would think of my choices and instead started following my own inner radar of truth is the day I first experienced true freedom.  It was the scariest and most exhilarating feeling of my life – and it’s a decision I must consciously re-make every single day.  This is probably one of my biggest weaknesses, and as fate would have it, it’s one of my husband’s biggest strengths.  We balance each other in many ways.  But we also drive each other crazy in many ways.  And if it weren’t for our commitment to constantly work on ourselves and our relationship, plus all the lessons we learned from our first failed marriages, I don’t think we would have lasted for two minutes.

Chaya and her family on her wedding day

I’m a strong personality, but he’s somehow even stronger.  He’s quite opinionated and is a perpetual ambassador for everything he believes in.  I’m equally opinionated, but keep it to myself unless asked.  His family is extremely loud and dramatic.  Mine pushes everything under the rug for fear of awkward confrontation.  He is a master at getting people to see his side and join his causes.  I don’t have the patience for the politics of dealing with other people’s drama.  His military background gives him a perspective that nothing surprises him, whereas I have such high hopes for humanity that I’m often disappointed in reality.  We are polar opposites in many, many things and I think one of the reasons that we’re able to click is that we simply give each other space.  I’m very happy to do my own thing, and he’s very happy to do his.  He appreciates that I don’t expect him to read my mind, and I am quite happy without a babysitter.  While neither one of us are artistic in the traditional sense of the word, I’m creative, he’s innovative, and we’re both good executors.  We’re both a little crazy, and our mentor says that if you’re crazy, you should use it to change the world.  So, we’ve decided that our art form is doing our part to transform the world from darkness to light, and our aspiring masterpiece will include bringing together as many people as possible to do acts of goodness and kindness on a global scale.

Chaya and Moty

Yesterday, to celebrate our anniversary, we actually had a very comical experience.  We were forced to look at each other with zero entertainment aides or distractions.  We chose to stay home instead of going out, created a rare Staycation instead of traveling, and kept the house empty, instead of our usual zillion-person crowd.  We were too lazy to cook, so we sat with leftovers and spent an hour playing our favorite songs from the soundtrack of our lives and sharing memories through the music.  He had really weird songs that I’d never heard of (he says Israel didn’t get much opportunity before the internet lol) and he was not remotely impressed with my collection of country crooners and New Kids On The Block.  Then we got down to business…and I pulled out a list.  (I am famous for my lists, as you already know.)

Awhile back I had read a book that encouraged married couples to ask each other “How would you rate our marriage on a scale of 1 – 10?  And what do we need to do to get it to a 10?”  So based on this idea, I wrote a list that I called “My Dream Marriage”, and discussion around this list was the topic of our Anniversary celebration last night.  Some if it was embarrassing to address, and we were both forced to dig deep.  The list was a full page, front and back.  It was in my hand-writing, but it included things that I knew were important to him as well.  He had a chance to add or make comments to anything on the list, and by the end of our very lengthy and straight-forward discussion, we felt grateful and empowered.  We strengthened our commitment to each other, our commitment to work on ourselves, and our commitment to make sure that we have fun and experience joy along the way.

I don’t share this story to pretend to be an expert, and six years isn’t an impressive track record.  But if you add up all the lessons we learned in two separate 12-year marriages, plus the time we’ve spent together, we figure there’s thirty years of wisdom we can gain – if we’re willing to shed our egos and keep our eyes on the target.  There are plenty of days we could still kill each other, but then we remember that compassion, mercy, and grace go a long way.  And by the way, we’ve decided that the “never go to bed angry” rule is ridiculous.  Sometimes lack of sleep is the biggest problem, a good night’s rest can bring immense amounts of clarity, and there’s nothing like a fresh sunrise to remind us that G-d’s mercies are new every day!

Chaya and Moty

So today, as we celebrate our first six-years together, we accept the fact that we have no idea what tomorrow will hold, and we’re excited to embrace and attack each new day together.

Chaya Ben-Shabat
Chaya is a mom, entrepreneur, success coach, athlete, student, dreamer, and world traveler.   She is also the founder and CEO of an up-and-coming international school system, designed to revolutionize global education.  She works with highly determined women to help them bust through their obstacles, discover and channel their inner superpowers, and master the tools and skills necessary to design and create the life of their dreams.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *