Three Things I’ve Learned

Today’s post: Three things I’ve learned after one year of marriage.

1. Even if husbands are clean before marriage, they won’t necessarily be clean after.

This is not a knock on my husband- he does a pretty good job most of the time. But one of the most surprising things about marriage for me was that his side of the bedroom looks nothing like his room did when we were dating. Maybe it’s because he finally has someone to clean up after him, though sometimes I’m tempted to leave that pile of clothes and see how high it can get before he takes initiative. I’ve said a lot of prayers while doing dishes after he’s used the kitchen. Marriage is a great adventure in sanctification.

2. Marriage is a great adventure in sanctification.

This has been huge. As a young woman, I could barely understand my own emotions before I added those of a whole other person. Under the same roof, mind you. It’s not really twice the emotional rollercoaster like you think it would be- it’s really four times harder. I can’t imagine what it will be like to have teenagers if God takes us that far, but maybe that’s why they start off really sweet and grow into their emotions- so you can slowly prepare for the disaster at the end. All that to say, marriage definitely reminds you that you’re not the only one on this earth. Sometimes rudely, usually abrasively, but rarely in a kind and loving way.

3. Life shared with someone you love is much sweeter than living it alone.

This is not a stab at singleness. I loved being single more than most people I know, and God will sanctify and purify you in his own way if that’s where he is leading you. But there’s something about always having someone to come home to- someone who knows your craziest thoughts and dreams and the darkest parts of your heart, but loves you anyway. Someone to laugh with and cry to and be silly with. And someone to protect you and love you through all of life’s battles.

And these are just a few things after year one. We have so far to go.

On Scheduling

I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of our disagreements are Jen’s fault the result of each of us impeding on the other’s time.

Oh you have softball tonight? Well I wanted to go out to eat instead.
You’re going antiquing this weekend? I was going to work on my web site.
We’re going to your family’s house again?!

It’s just one of the many ways our personal selfishness is revealed through marriage.

I don’t really think there’s a fix to this problem or a tried-and-true remedy for the ailment of feeling lonely all the time, but here’s what Jen and I decided on…

As most of you know, I’ve been rather busy running my OSU web site (it’s a second job really) and because of this our time together is sporadic at best. So we walked through my weekly schedule, hour by hour (literally), and blocked off time that’s just Kyle and Jen time. No writing, no reading, just being with each other and cultivating relationship.

And it’s been outstanding – to be intentional with your time to grow in the Lord with your spouse.

Of course we’re also only on day 2 so get back to me in a week, we’ll probably be in the midst of another Zeb incident.

Anniversary Plots

The idea of an anniversary makes me really nervous. Sort of like birthdays and Christmas, there’s so much expectation tied to it, which usually makes me clam up and fail. I’ve already got a project in the works for our anniversary, but here are some things I would love to do if I still needed ideas. Maybe I’ll use these for year two.

1. Take a trip.

Everyone knows how badly I want to purchase an Airstream, but did I tell you about the time I thought the husband bought us one as a surprise? Another story for a later time…

This is actually something we’re doing this year (thanks to the husband’s secret planning skills), but it’s only going to be a short weekend trip. The idea of flying anywhere for a short period overwhelms me, not to mention the price of flights is extraordinary right now. So we’re taking a short road trip to a secret destination, which will be more fun and less overwhelming than a big trip anywhere else.

2. Host a party.

via a cup of jo

This is something I really want to do, but I’m not sure where we’d fit all the people we’d want to invite to our tiny little apartment. Maybe if God blesses us with a house and a big back yard, we can try this on anniversary number 5. I love the idea of having some close friends over for dinner to celebrate another year of our love. Check out the links below for some free photo booth templates from the fabulous Jordan Ferney. She has the best party ideas.

via oh happy day

3. Make a photo montage.

With all the technology available these days, you can make any type of photo book or collage by just uploading some favorite photos to the website of your choice. Even if you’re not picture people, you can gather enough pictures over the last year to make something pretty memorable. Even if you have to include things like this:

What are some creative things you’ve done to commemorate an anniversary or special occasion?

Photo Attribution

The Night We Met

I had known her for two years already, but I remember the night it felt like I was meeting Jen again for the first time.

We had driven to Hennessey that day to visit her sister, who had just undergone brain surgery. I was a little upset because I was missing the OSU Texas Tech basketball game and all I had was a radio and miles and miles of Oklahoma farmland to traverse. In retrospect, her sister had just been prodded in the brain with multiple metal instruments and just wanted some company so my being perturbed was probably a bit misguided.

Anyway, we had fun that day reminiscing with some old friends who had also come with us to the place where (little did we know) we would be married at some 800 days later.

Then that night, well, that night was one of those nights that don’t really make sense unless you’ve lived in a college town It’s one of those fistful of wonderful nights that are seared into the hard drive of your mind and even if you wanted to erase it, you couldn’t.

Jen had just gotten her hair cut and she was wearing this crisp red jacket that made her look about 6” taller than she actually was. She looked elegant that night. Like Katie Holmes crossed with Rachel McAdams.

We were out with friends and everyone had a blast, but honestly we could have been out with strangers in a country halfway around the world and it still would have felt the same way. I couldn’t stop looking at her, I was completely and unequivocally hooked.

I wish I could have put it in a time capsule.

There were other nights in our dating relationship that stand out for various reasons: our first kiss, our first actual date, and “that one night in Austin” come to mind. But I think I’d be hard pressed to give you a more soul-debilitating twenty four hours than January 12, 2008.

To fifty more years of red jackets and fresh hair cuts.

A Contrast of Centuries

Recently a friend said to me, “I have to confess that I really love reading your blog, mostly because it helps me realize that I’m not completely crazy.” And isn’t that what friendship is all about? You find people who are rather similar to you, mostly because you’re encouraged to find that insanity dwells in us all. I’m not the only wife who has cried over a failed lobster night, nor will I be the last.

Sometimes I find solace in the written word, and while it should be the holy Bible, this week it manifests itself in a work of fiction that has been a source of giggles and encouragement to me in the last 11 months. Though its pages reflect the early 1800’s, the content is quite similar to today. It simply goes to show that we have been the same for all of eternity; ladies, let the crazy live on. Here, a contrast of my heart and another 200 years earlier.

I’ll just say it: sometimes the blog gets in the way of our marriage. Yes, I am so excited that Kyle is doing what he loves and having a great time with it, but sometimes I hand him his dinner plate and expect to sit at the table, only to watch him take it directly to the computer, put on his headphones, and eat there. To be fair, that only happened once. You can all imagine why.

February 16, 1837
Our honeymoon ends today. There hasn’t been quite as much honey in it as I expected. I supposed that Ernest would be at home every evening, at least, and that he would read aloud, and have me play and sing, and that we should have delightful times together. But now he has got me he seems satisfied and goes about his business as if he had been married a hundred years.

Even as I write these things, I feel rather ridiculous, but such is the heart of a woman. Sometimes Kyle and I have discussions on how I don’t necessarily have to hang out with him all the time, but I just want him to want to hang out with me. If you’re a man, go back, try to process that, and then give up.

Then in the evening he goes and sits in his office and studies; I don’t mean every minute, but he certainly spends hours there. Today I got a letter from Mother, which made me cry at once. He came and embraced me and I told him I was lonely and hadn’t been used to spending my evenings all by myself.
“You must get some of your friends to come see you,” he said.
“I don’t want friends,” I sobbed. “I want you.”
“Yes, darling; why didn’t you tell me sooner? Of course I will stay with you if you wish it.”
“If that is your only reason, I am sure I don’t want you.”
He looked puzzled.

I’m sure no one else has ever had these conversations, just me and little Katherine. My heart immediately wonders if I am being unreasonable and selfish, but I just can’t help but feel these things. I often think back to our dating relationship and think about all the letters we wrote one another, all the nights we spent talking over coffee, on walks, listening to music. And in my head, nothing should have changed, though I know this life is always evolving.

Am I unreasonable and childish? What is married life? An occasional meeting, a kiss here and a caress there? Or is it the sacred union of the twain who walk together side by side, knowing each other’s joys and sorrows and going Heavenward hand in hand?

And thus wages the battle between the poetic souls of women and the practical hearts of men. It must happen, I suppose, in order to get anything done and maintain all the order in the universe. Otherwise the world would run completely out of coffee and paper, and no one wants to live in a world like that.

It’s the Little Things

Lots of places to go with a title like that, huh?

It has come to my attention (who starts a sentence like that outside of British Parliament?) in the last few days and/or weeks through a bit of gentle appropriate reminding by my wife that I am failing.

I am failing to create time within our marriage to converse and grow. I am failing to carve out special moments for the two of us to share. And I am failing, mostly, to grasp that our wedded bliss is about something other than my day-to-day happiness.

Not abject failures, but failures nonetheless.

The good news, for me, and for any of you XY’s out there, is that I’m (we’re) close.

10 minutes of turning my phone off and being locked into what my wife is saying here. 15 minutes of shutting the computer down and cooking a quick dinner with her there. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a wife whose attention span rivals that of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, so she doesn’t ask for multiple-hour-long blocks. She just wants me, the person she married, to be here, the place we live for short amounts of memorable time together.

Like I said…the little things.

In Love and War

Last Wednesday, as we walked into church for our congregation’s monthly prayer meeting, Kyle and I were in the midst of a domestic dispute. I can’t quite remember what it was about- I was probably irritated about not having eaten dinner or Kyle was upset because I seemed distracted by the fact that he was texting while telling me a story. Either way, it was something really mature. We walked in a few minutes late (because there’s always plenty of seating at prayer meetings) and both sat down in a huff, arms crossed, ready to address the triune God in all his glory. Almost immediately the pastor stands up and says, “Father, thank you for this time for us to gather in your name. Please bless our time together, heal broken marriages…” at which point I feel my husband’s strong finger poking in my back. This brought on some very serious giggles, followed by a snort, which was followed up with stares from the ones who were actually mature enough to attend the prayer meeting.

Sometimes I’m not sure what we’re doing. I honestly think we both had very realistic expectations going into marriage. But sometimes I think our expectations were of what our marriage should be. Not what we thought it would be. When you’re dating, it actually seems very realistic to think you’ll spend lots of time talking, dreaming, and gazing into one another’s eyes in marriage. That’s what you do when you’re dating. It’s easy to think that’s what marriage should be like because it’s all you know of love at that point. You think you’ll never argue over finances because you were each great at managing your own. You’ll never get tired of being together because you always had the opportunity to go home.

Well, my friends, we’re still working on all these things. It’s difficult for me to be realistic about our time together because I genuinely want more of it. It’s difficult for Kyle to relax a little on finances because he genuinely wants to buy a house in the semi-near future. When these things are matters of the heart, we realize that it’s about more than compromise.

And some days, changing the heart seems like the most impossible task in the world.

Photo Attribution

Guest Post- In Sickness and in Health

This post is from Jen’s friend Debbie. She has been blessed in marriage twice, and has been an example to so many on what it means to live out and support a husband in sickness and in health. We asked her to share a little about what that has meant for her and hope it blesses some of you today!

Have you ever made a promise to someone you knew was going to be difficult to keep? Did you pinky swear? That always makes things official, you know? It has been quoted multiple times, “Promises are made to be broken.” I must tell you, this is a myth. Promises are best when kept, no matter how difficult the task. Our story…

I met him, fell in love with him, and promised to love, honor, cherish and commit to him in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for better, for worse, in poverty or in prosperity, till death do us part. I vowed these things before God and the well-dressed witnesses smiling in bow-laden church pews, candles glowing with my groom in a very uncomfortable dark navy tuxedo. My heart was full. My happiness overflowed on this my long awaited wedding day. I meant every recited word as I pledged my love to him. I promised.

Fast forward 10 plus years, two sons later. My husband was suddenly sick, hurting badly. He knew something was wrong. We sought help immediately. The doctors told us the battle would be long and would be hard to fight. The doctor was extremely accurate in his prediction. The battle raged.

As the illness grew stronger and he grew weaker, the idea of multiple medications, physical therapy, an amputated limb, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and sleepless nights all weighed heavy as I began to question my ability to transform from wife to nurse/care-taker as rapidly as his needs presented. I asked myself in numerous silent conversations, “Did I sign up for this?” “I thought I was to be the blushing, beautiful bride forever, not do ‘this’ for him.” “Why God? Why?” I was selfish. I was mad at the illness that was stealing him away from me. I continued to question my ability to take care of his needs. I cried, whined, but also prayed. My prayers were varied. Some days I prayed for his healing, some days I prayed for my own health and well-being. My sons prayed for their father. A lot of tears were shed. I would guess there were as many fallen tears as prayers offered up.

His pain worsened. His hope for a long life waned. He first asked and then begged for me to take his life, withhold his medication or give him more than was needed. He cried. I cried. We prayed.
We were thankful for days where his strength was good, especially if they fell on Sunday so that we could worship together, as a family. It was a very important part of our lives, but we missed many services due to his illness and healthcare needs. That week, we were welcomed into the church with hugs and handshakes from people we had not seen in quite some time. The minister was preaching a sermon series on The Ten Commandments, familiar material I assumed and then I heard HIM loud and clear, “Thou shalt not kill.” As my body shuddered from the impact of God’s Word, I heard another voice in my ears, my own words were echoing “In sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for better, for worse…” My vow, promise and commitment to him was written on the blackboard of my mind’s eye and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could not ever help him end his life and that it was my honor to serve my husband in the capacity of care-taker until God choose to heal him. My frame of mind changed that day. I had a renewed sense of purpose and a spirit of thanksgiving. I continued to pray.

Time and illness continued to take its toll on his body and his mind. I began to pray for an answer in the form of divine healing, “please take him home Lord” I was not sure if this was okay to pray, but these were the words coming from my mouth. It was one of the most difficult prayers I had ever prayed. I wanted his earthly suffering to end. That same evening, he asked me to sit by the bedside as he talked, his voice unusually strong. We had not had a deep conversation like this in a very long time.

It was a cold December day, winds howling as a reminder of a new season blowing in. I remember his words well. I held onto his hand as he spoke about his heart-change that had taken place that day as he prayed. He spoke of a forgiveness that he had never felt before from his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I was surprised when he asked me to help him with the phone, dialing multiple numbers across state lines. He was telling friends and family of his relationship with Jesus. He asked for forgiveness from past wrongs he wanted to make right immediately. He made amends with people he once held very strong grudges against. I was dumbfounded at the change in him. I had no idea these deep issues even existed. I was feeling something new at that moment too; I was falling in love all over again, fresh love, for my husband; not a sick man in need of care and attention, but the man I loved greatly, the man I made a promise to many years before.

“Till death do us part.” It happened sooner than I had expected, but I held onto the Word, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” It was my hope and God’s promise. The Word brought comfort during the difficult days ahead. I tried to be strong for our sons, but they offered me strength. We got through the next few days sitting with the many people that visited with baked hams and scalloped potatoes running over. We were numb at some moments, crying with sadness of his passing, and at other times, laughing at a funny memory of silliness, and the good days gone by.

Sympathy cards and phone calls came in large numbers those first few days after the announcement came of his death. The number of visits drew less and less as the world kept living at their normal pace. My new normal was foreign to me. I cherished a friend’s call or visit as days grew into weeks and months.
During those first few months after he was gone, I reflected on how God answered the prayers of healing in His perfect time. He waited until reconciliation was made and all was well in his heart before calling him home. I often remember with joy, that moment when I fell in love with him all over again because I saw before me my groom, not a sick body in need of care, but a man that I made a promise to.

As I looked through the envelopes the mail man had just delivered, I wondered who would be sending me a card. It was not my birthday nor any holiday where a card might be expected. I was full of anticipation, a card, I love cards! As I read the words, tears began to fall. The handwritten note from one of his many doctors read, “I have never known anyone to keep their marriage vows the way you did. You were an example to many…in sickness and in health, till death do you part.”

Photo Attribution

A Small Focus

Sometimes I try to mentally rewind to before we were married, to try and remember my view on marriage as a single woman. I often find it difficult to remember my emotions and thoughts from a former period in my life, though I suppose this is meant to happen, lest we live our current lives with our hearts in the past.

After almost a full year of wedded bliss, I think most of what I expected from marriage has happened. Living with a boy is difficult but doable, and having two sets of emotions under one roof hasn’t made anything spontaneously combust. Even though some days I wanted to physically combust my husband. Our dynamic with friendships has changed some, partly because we moved to a new city, and partly because when you’re married, the best thing at the end of the day is to come home to someone who loves you more than anyone else.

I think in any scenario when you’re looking forward to the future (which would ideally be all stages in life) you put a certain level of expectation on that next phase. On going from high school to college, on being single to being married, on being a couple to being a full-fledged family. There’s always the stir of excitement, of new responsibilities, new things to decorate (girl stuff), and experiencing things for the first time. In each stage, we have a time of preparation, a time when everything else fades away and we focus solely on becoming who we need to be for where God is taking us next. I found a journal entry from our engagement that simply had four items.

March 24, 2010 6:30am

– Pikes Place Roast. Four creamers.
– Yellow sheet of paper
– Listen to listen, not to form a comeback
– Read his love languages.

This is such a great picture of our marriage counseling, not only because we were sneaking around at crazy hours trying to avoid scrutiny from co-workers and friends, but because we simply took one thing at a time to focus on. For me, the best thing to do right now is not to focus on the next stage in life, but to have three or four tiny goals to make my marriage better every day. Right now, these would look like this.

May 3, 2011 8:26am

Speak with kindness.
Choose your words carefully.
Pray for your husband.

And in these times of small focus, everything else seems to fade away. At least until it’s time to bring it into the light.

Working Things Out

Raise your hand if you’ve been to a wedding ceremony in the last year and heard this:

The relationship between a husband wife is like that between Christ and the Church

Just for the record my personal favorite wedding ceremony analogy is:

These rings signify that your love is forever because they are in the shape of a circle and a circle never ends, it goes on forever

Okay, really, what if I put an onion ring around my wrist and call that my wedding onion and vow that our love will go on forever? I’m not judging you if you’ve said it or had it said at your ceremony, I’m just imploring young pastors across the nation to rescind that bit from their wedding repertoire. I’m begging, really.

Anyway, back to the Christ + Church analogy. I’ve been thinking lately about how a marriage is, in many ways, this physical manifestation of one’s relationship with the Lord.

There’s this Biblical concept that a person is progressively sanctified in Christ as he or she walks with Him day after day after day. This idea that one must be refined by the prodding of His hands and the wisdom of His ways.

Note: don’t let this be confused with positional sanctification, which is the acceptance of Jesus into one’s heart.

Never have I been more acutely aware that of the Biblical meaning of the words ‘progressive’ or ‘sanctification’ or ‘progressive sanctification’ than in the 300 days since I’ve been wed.

There is either a force pulling us to the end or a force pushing us from the beginning. Often I cannot tell. All I know is that we are headed somewhere and along the way it becomes imperative that we work things out to get there.

Now, “working things out” is a rather ambiguous term by which I simply mean: compromising disagreements, melding mutual ideas, and growing in Christ-like friendship.

It’s an opaque endeavor, and yet the most specific, clear thing in the world. You know what I mean if you’ve ever walked with God.