Marriage

At the end of May, my husband and I will celebrate our two year anniversary. I’ve spent pretty much the entire month of May thinking back and reflecting on these past two years. And it is crazy to think about. My first thought was about our wedding day.. and I just have to take some time to explain it:

Our wedding day was perfect. Obviously, I am a little biased. And nothing is actually perfect – there are a few things I would change about it. But it was as close as it gets to perfect in my mind. Planning and preparation leading up to it.. not perfect at all. It was totally messy, complicated, difficult, and I had some big bridezilla moments. Like we all do. The most special thing about our day was the people. Our people rallied around us and helped us put together this day in ways that I could never imagine. Our friends and families worked their butts off crafting with me, setting up the two days before the wedding, cleaning up after. It was hard work and long hours and honestly I can’t believe we asked so much of everyone… but our community is amazing and they were willing to do it out of love. Love for us, yes, but mostly.. love for God. Our friends and family loved and served us that weekend in a way that perfectly illustrated Jesus. We were prayed for, encouraged, supported. Anywhere I turned there was someone doing something to help us get ready. Even people that I had no idea were involved! We seriously felt the love. And I have been unable to find words to express the amount of I’ve felt since then. It was more than just the weekend of the wedding – we had people pouring into us throughout our entire engagement (and relationship for that matter). I met weekly with a mentor of mine to prepare to be the best wife I could be. We met as a couple with many different married couples in our community. Everyone was so willing to be there for us..to help and encourage us. Our wedding turned out beautifully. The most beautiful part? The picture it created for our guests. My parents couldn’t believe the community around us. The amount of people that surrounded us and were willing to work hard in order to make our special day happen. It seriously took a village, and that did not go unnoticed. I’ve had guests from our wedding comment to this day about how evident the love was that day – and not just between my husband and I. They don’t always realize what they are describing when they say that.. but I do. They are describing Jesus. And our friends and families that rallied with us that weekend.. they showed Jesus to each and everyone of our guests. By their actions, by the words, by being present. THAT was the greatest wedding present we could have ever received.

Since then.. a lot has happened. Our life together is a pretty wonderful one. But on that day, we promised to choose each other and choose God forever. I have always preached that love is very much a choice, and not always how we are feeling. And I stand firm in that today. I adore my husband, but we have to choose each other every day. Sometimes we fall short. Sometimes marriage is the hardest thing. But we are committed to love God and to love each other for the rest of our lives. And that promise has created a beautiful life for us. With all that being said.. here are some of the biggest things I’ve learned so far about marriage in these first couple years:

  1. Laughter keeps love alive. And my husband is so good at laughter. He is intentional about it too. We currently have a picture of an old professor hanging above our stairs in the most awkward place. This started as a joke with my classmates and I, and hubby got in on the fun. It’s been all over our house, and I laugh each time. And I can’t help but feel loved by this silly little gesture of moving a picture around. It’s the same feeling I got when I, as a 23 year old woman, got excited to wake up each day to find our Elf on the Shelf. I’m not embarrassed about that. My husband wants me to laugh – and our marriage is full of laughter. It keeps us sane..  seriously. Not long ago I was angry and being dramatic about something little (shocker) and hubby literally took my sandwich until I got over it. Try keeping a straight face and being angry when your husband has your sandwich held behind his back. Laughter is important to us. Funny doesn’t come as naturally for me (although I think I’m hilarious), but I think he appreciates my attempts. At least he’s always there to make me funnier. I’ve learned to be okay with being funny by association.
  2. You’ll fight over ridiculous things, but it will teach you how to fight fairly. And what is worth fighting about. The first part is so true for us. My husband and I sometimes fight over little things. When I say fight, please don’t picture the worst. I mean.. sometimes it’s pretty bad, but we’ve come a long way. The first thing that comes to my mind? When I ask him to help zipper my dresses. I swear zipper companies have something against marriages, because those have been some of our most frustrating moments (no joke, I’m only allowed to ask as a last resort now). Other stupid things we have fought about? Currently: Who threw away the parmesan cheese. Hubby’s pretty salty about it. I don’t even remember having it. I’m also told that we fight when I sleep talk. A few weeks ago I was (allegedly) yelling about using the word “invisible” because “he knows how I feel about that word.” I have no memory of that.. and obviously, all of these examples have turned into jokes and are funny to us now. But it’s part of the point I’m trying to make. I’ve learned that it’s okay to have moments where we fight over little things. Because of those moments, we learned how to handle our disagreements and let them go. We’ve also learned to realize when something is worth arguing over, and when we just need to agree to disagree. And I don’t think we would be where we are now if we never fought over stupid stuff. As silly as it all seems.
  3. Not everything comes naturally. I never had it in my head that marriage would be easy, but I did think that it would be natural. I thought I would want to wake up everyday and keep my house clean and organized out of my love for my husband. I thought spending time reading the Bible together,  praying together, serving together would come easily..just because we both love the Lord. I thought that I would WANT to put his needs ahead of my own needs, because after all, he’s my husband. Clearly.. I was living in a dream world. I guess I thought marriage would change me overnight. It didn’t. There definitely ARE days where some of those things come naturally. But there are more days that it’s not natural – it’s intentional. And I think THAT is what’s normal. After all, we are selfish human beings. We naturally think of ourselves first, but in marriage you need to be thinking about your spouse first. We have learned that we DO need to be intentional, especially when things aren’t happening naturally. We sometimes need to use books to help us pray, learn, and grow in the Word together. Sometimes we create to-do lists for each other in regards to the house stuff. We have learned (I’m still working on it) to communicate what we want and need from each other more clearly. If we are feeling disconnected, we’ve had to literally schedule time together in advance. We’ve had to say things like, “On Monday, we have to talk about _____________.” We have sought advice from older couples and mentors when we are feeling frustrated or defeated. And guess what? All of that’s okay. I’ve had moments where I have felt like I’m not good at marriage, and I truly believe that is just the enemy putting lies into my head. I think being honest about when we are struggling and then being intentional about fixing it is what makes us successful in marriage. And that knowledge has freed me from any of those lies.
  4. My husband will never be enough for me. Society today tells us that our significant other is supposed to complete us. That we have soulmates waiting for us out in the world – and that your main goal should be to find the person you’re meant to be with. Luckily, I had a ton of people who loved me enough to let me know that none of that is true. And because of my relationship with the Lord, I knew that God is the only one that will ever be enough for me. But that’s really easy to say – and not as easy to truly accept. I’ve found myself looking to my husband to fix things that I should be relying on the Lord for. I look to him to do things that aren’t possible, and then I get disappointed. It’s not fair to him at all. Expectations are a huge part of marriage and unrealistic expectations will cause a huge strain. My husband isn’t enough for me in others ways too: when I need a female friend to talk to, when I need a mentor, when I need my parents. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve learned that it’s okay to need more than just your husband. I had it in my head that he had to be my go-to person for every single problem in my life (and that I am that person for him). And yes, we need to listen and comfort and encourage each other through everything..hubby’s amazing at being there for me, but he is not going to be able to satisfy every emotional need of mine. God wants us to have other people in our lives. It’s healthy and it’s community and it’s how life is meant to be lived. This makes sense in my head. Hopefully it makes sense in yours too.
  5. God will guide you, and things will work out in ways you never expected. The other day, I was talking to one of my friends on the phone. We were talking about our lives and just catching up with each other in general. We spoke about my wedding and my marriage.. and then about fostering. I think we were just in shock at where my life ended up going and how much things have changed. Thinking about our conversation and all that I’ve been reflecting on in my marriage.. I’m in awe of God. He seriously leads us exactly where we are meant to be. When I was younger, I always pictured doing something radical for Jesus. I went to Africa twice and was convinced that one day I would be training teachers or working in an orphanage full time there. It was my dream. My husband has always been the person that loves and serves Jesus in his day to day life, and he never really had a desire for international missions. He doesn’t believe that you need to do something as radical as moving around the world to be following Jesus. And you don’t. Neither one of us was wrong, we just had different dreams (it reminds me of the books Radical and Radically Normal). Anyway we started dating, and I’ve been trying to force my dream on him ever since. I’ve tried to plan trips to Africa, and hubby is all for it (a short term trip), but it’s never worked out. The closest we got was going this summer.. and God closed that door pretty quickly (thank you inevitable collarbone surgery). Every time it didn’t work out, I was so annoyed. I kept wondering why God wouldn’t allow us to serve Him in a big way. My husband showed me that any way you serve God is a “big” way of serving. And our hearts started changing, and we began to pursue foster care. I truly believe God is molding us into who we are meant to be, and who we are meant to be together. I feel like he’s taken each of our dreams and almost meshed them together. Foster care can be considered doing something radical, but it’s also very much just living an ordinary day-to-day life. Maybe not ordinary, but we will definitely be doing ordinary things. This realization has just floored me the past week or so.. because I am so thankful. I used to think I would have to convince hubby to start dreaming of Africa, or that I would end up just letting go of that dream. But I’m not letting go of anything. God is changing my heart, changing my husbands heart, and providing ways for us to serve that we never even imagined. We may go to Africa one day. We may even live there. But I am confident in where we are right now, I’m confident that God is leading us, and that His plans are better than any of my own.

I am thrilled to be doing life with my hubby for the rest of our lives. He is my very best friend. Marriage has taught me more about myself and God than any other time in my life. I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned – and eager to continue learning as the years go on.

 

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Mother’s Day 

Today is Mother’s Day. This year, more than ever, I took the time to really think about it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I have a whole bunch of friends that are now mothers, maybe because I have some friends that are struggling to become mothers, maybe because I thought I would be a foster mother by now. Again, I’m not sure. But I’ve been thinking, praying, and reading about this day for weeks now. And in doing all of that.. I’ve come to realize (even more) what a special mother I have as my own. Through the years, I have learned so much from her. Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about how growing up I always felt closer to peers than family (that’s just who I was as a teen and young adult). That has completely changed now. I am closer to my family now more than ever before and I cannot imagine going a day without talking to them. My mom is an incredible wife, mother, sister and friend. Here are a few of the best things she’s taught me: 

You can do anything you want. My mom always encouraged my sisters and me to follow our dreams, to jump at opportunities, and to not let anything stand in our way. I don’t think I realized how much she meant everything she said until I went to her at 19 years old saying I was going to go to Africa, with no one I knew, for 6 weeks that summer. Reflecting on that moment, I remember feeling like she was going to be very hesitant and full of doubt and questions. While she did have tons of questions (like any mother should), by the end of our conversation, I had her full support. She loved me enough to trust my judgement and realize that I truly felt called to pursue that opportunity. And that’s just one opportunity. Growing up, all three of us have been encouraged and supported by our mother in many big and little ways. No matter what the dream or opportunity it was, my mom was always on our side and willing to help. 

You don’t have to be perfect. This one has been incredibly helpful to me over the years, but now more than ever since I am married. My mom never pretended to be perfect and she never expected us to be. I used to listen to my friends talk about how they never know if their parents fight or disagree, because they’ve never seen it. My parents made it a point to show AND tell us that it’s OKAY to disagree in any relationship, but especially in marriage. I’m not saying they fought in front of us on purpose, because they didn’t. I’m just saying that they were open and honest about if they weren’t seeing something eye to eye. It gave us all the opportunity to watch forgiveness and love in action again and again. Thirty years later, they are married and they still preach the same message: no one is perfect. There are no perfect families and certainly no perfect marriages. 

Work hard – because you’re supposed to. My mom has worked hard her entire life. Whether it was staying at home with us, doing in-home daycare, or being a paraeducator now – she has always put her all into everything she does. I will never forget how hard my mom works. And no matter what her job was, she was good at it. Not because she wanted to earn more money or be recognized. Just because when you do something, you’re supposed to do it well. And you’re not entitled to anything. As a teacher, I have students that expect rewards and recognition for doing what is expected of them. If they don’t feel like they will be rewarded, they don’t even try. I am so glad that my parents never allowed my sisters and me to think like that. We’ve always worked hard, but not for money or gifts or recognition. Just because we were supposed to.

When you can’t say it, write it. I hate talking about it, but I’ve put my family – ESPECIALLY my mom – through hell and back emotionally. I was a lot to handle, and I still am today. But growing up, my mom took the brunt of it. I lashed out at her (sometimes I still do) and my dad because I knew they would always love and forgive me, and that they weren’t going anywhere. Middle school and early high school was the worst for us. My anger and loneliness urged me to push my parents away daily. Inside I was struggling to figure out my anxieties, who I wanted to be, and my purpose. Whenever something major would happen, and I thought my mom had had enough, I would find cards. Everywhere. Under my pillows, in my suitcase when I went away, in my backpack. I have a large box of cards from my mom that I can barely ever bring myself to read because they are so emotional. They are filled with words that during those times I would never let her say to my face – that she loves me, she’s proud of me, she’s always be there. As I got older things improved with my parents and my family in general, but I still go back to those letters. They are a huge part of how I’ve overcome a lot of what I used to struggle with, and they are an amazing picture of a mothers love and commitment to her daughter.

Mom, thank you for all that you’ve taught me. I can’t wait to continue learning from you as I become a mother one day. Happy Mother’s Day! ❤️