Our Second Anniversary: Celebrating the Most Costly Year of My Life

There are many reasons why I love fall, but the most paramount is that I get a special opportunity to celebrate my marriage. While I am, of course, thankful for my husband and our journey together throughout the whole year, October 17 will always serve as an altar, a point of remembrance where I can stop, reflect, and celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives as husband and wife. (If you’re interested, I wrote about our first year of marriage here)

Unlike last year, this year my husband and I are celebrating our anniversary 2,000+ miles and 3 time zones away. We cannot plan for an extravagant date night or a romantic night in. I won’t be able to see his face or hug him when I tell him how much I love him. But, this is part of our story and I believe it makes it that much more important to celebrate well.

As the title wound suggest, this past year has been costly, for the both of us, as the cost of obedience and investment can be steep. In this season of our lives, we find ourselves passionately investing in our careers, wisely investing in our financial future, and persistently investing in our marriage, all in ways that we hope will yield bountiful dividends in the years to come. These worthwhile pursuits have cost us time, energy, convenience, money, physical touch, emotional availability, comfort, sleep, assurances, and so much more. If I’m transparent, this has left me weary and discouraged at times.

Paradoxically, even as the investments have mounted and though this season of life is here to stay for a little while, my husband and I have found our joy to be sustained and can confidently say that we have never felt depleted. At every turn we have discovered that life is most abundant when we hold loosely to our resources, our comfort, and our plans. A year of having to give a lot of that up has so beautifully taught us that. Instead, we have learned the value of clinging tightly to each other and to Jesus, who redeems every cost for His glory and our goodness. Part of that goodness is giving us experiences that allow us to learn, stretch, and grow in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t.

I am a better woman because of what we have walked through during this year. The Lord has taught me more about grace and flexibility in this past year than I could ever have imagined. I have become confident that when I come to the end of myself, I find Jesus… every.single.time. Learning to refocus myself on thoughts of eternity has been able to overshadow the frustrations of momentary inconvenience. Truly taking thoughts captive and choosing joy have been hard skills that I have begun to value and hone. I have become better at identifying selfishness in my own heart, which is the first step in confronting it. As my husband’s helpmate, I am better at encouraging and affirming him, continually learning to speak to his heart in ways that no one else can. All of these are life lessons that I would not trade for a year that was “easier.”

 …

You only love as much as you’re willing to be inconvenienced. So thank you, year two, for showing my husband and I just how strong our love is. Now, I look with great hope and expectation for what year three will bring.

Advertisements

My Month In A Psych Ward

For four weeks I spent every Monday through Friday in the locked, inpatient psychiatry unit at the VA hospital in Indianapolis. As a physician assistant student in my clinical year, I get to spend a whole year learning hands-on in a wide variety of medical settings. As both an ex-military daughter and a current military wife, I chose to spend my psychiatry rotation at the veteran’s hospital. Many veterans struggle with mental illness, whether as a result of combat or just human brokenness, and it is estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

I saw a variety of people over this month. Some stayed for a few days and others were there before I was and were still there when I left. Some were in their 20s while others were in their 80s. Some saw combat and some did not. There were a variety of diagnoses including schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, personality disorders, and especially drug abuse. There was a lot of drug abuse. And behind all of that, was an incredible group of doctors, pharmacists, and social workers who graciously allowed me into their daily environment to learn and work alongside them.

After a bit of time to process all that I saw and experienced this month, these are three of my main takeaways.

1. You can’t make people change

I personally know people who have had rough pasts and yet they worked hard to create opportunities for their success. This month, I have also seen people with rough pasts who have been handed every opportunity and given every benefit of the doubt and yet they find themselves in the same despondency. Change is not the result of opportunity or privilege; it is the result of choice and determination.

It’s hard to watch people who continue to make bad decisions. It breaks my heart to know that some people could have a happier, more fulfilling life, yet continue not to choose it. On the flipside though, it is an indescribable joy to watch someone who tightens their metaphorical bootstraps and commits to putting in the work to make the hard decisions to choose that life. Those are the people you want to truly come alongside and throw in everything you’ve got to help them. I saw both.

While there certainly is a time and a way and a place to help both of these types of people, I found freedom in giving my best to every person, every single day, casting aside the pressure for the outcomes to be a measure of my effort.

2. Coping is a learned life skill

There is a general understanding of the need for children to physically develop. Pediatricians track growth charts from infancy and society recognizes the signs of puberty and physical maturity. Children are told to eat well and stay active so they can “grow big and strong”. There is also a general understanding of the need for children to mentally develop. There are rigorous school performance standards and numerous programs that encourage kids to stay in school. Some parents spend tens of thousands of dollars for their children to go to college and earn a “higher education.” What is lacking though, is the general understanding of the need for children to emotionally develop.

This month I interacted with adult men who would crumble under the stress of daily responsibility or relational conflict. Overwhelmed by their emotions, they would turn to drugs and alcohol or be overpowered by thoughts of suicide and depression. To be honest, there were times when I struggled to have empathy because the thought of not being able to handle stress seemed so childish to me. But that’s exactly the point. These men were never taught how to handle everyday stress well; therefore, they do handle stress like children.  The mind, much like the body, is a product of training. Whatever behaviors and coping mechanisms are taught and reinforced as we grow up, including bad ones like drugs, avoidance, and angry outbursts, are the ones we turn to as adults. While many of the men I met thrived under the routine and structure of the military, trying to live within the messier, interpersonal, and unpredictable civilian word proved to be a challenge they were not emotionally prepared for. However, many of these men are currently connected with group therapy where they can learn and practice different coping mechanisms. They are given outlets to externally process and become more mindful of their thinking patterns. It took me some time to realize this, but coping well doesn’t come naturally and it can be hard to learn as an adult; but, intentionally learning good ways to handle emotions is a skill that has dramatic implications on one’s quality of life.

3. There is a definite roll for medication in mental health

Over this month, I saw some incredible changes in people’s mood, thought content, orientation to reality, and ability to cope with the help of medication. It seems socially acceptable to acknowledge that other health conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, are best treated with lifestyle modification and medication; yet, that belief is not held so much when applied to mental illness. While as a future clinician my preference is still for strongly promoting lifestyle change/habit modification as much as possible across all health conditions, I greatly appreciate the role of medication when used correctly by thoughtful providers. Medications shouldn’t just be blindly thrown at problems, but they can be can important part of a treatment strategy. For some people with moderate to severe mental illness, medication truly is a significant part of their treatment.

At the end of my rotation, I came to these conclusions: People are messy and broken and mental illness is complicated.

However, I also found myself encouraged by these truths: God is in the business of redeeming messy, broken people for His glory and, mental illness is real, but so is God and He offers hope that can reach through even the darkest moments.

I am thankful for my time at the VA and the ways I was able to engage and invest my time there. There are so many people who dedicate themselves to serving our veterans everyday and it was an honor to work alongside them. However, I was just passing through. For me, up next is…OB/GYN!

Cultivating a Healthy Long-Distance Relationship

For the past several months, this is the field I have been laboring in. There have been weeds and thorns to pull, watering to be done, and a lot of planting. There have definitely been days that have left me emotionally exhausted and ended with a good, stress-relieving cry. But, my husband and I can both attest that we have also seen this to be a very rewarding labor of love.

Marriage, even without distance, is hard. There are a lot of external pressures that can so easily and insidiously begin to chip away at unity. Without constant attention and care, marriages stop blooming and over time can begin to whither. For long-distance relationships specifically, I have discovered, that thriving comes down to a battle between feeling and knowing. If I don’t engage my mind and choose my reactions, my heart will take control and my emotions will sabotage me. Missing someone is a really strong emotion. Really strong. It gnaws and it lingers and when we least expect it, it comes rushing in, demanding our attention. I strongly conclude that how we choose to handle this weighty feeling of missing someone ultimately influences the health and longevity of our relationships.

…….

The first option is to choose resentment. Let bitterness build up and over time, you begin to cast blame on your significant other for the heartache that distance inevitably causes. Rather than being upset by the situation, you become upset with him/her. You begin to feed those negative emotions, giving them power. Then, over time, they become powerful enough to destroy whatever unity is there such that you now view the other person at the impediment to your happiness and fulfillment. At that point, the only solution you can see to restore your happiness is to leave behind the weight of the relationship.

The second option is to choose isolation. Sometimes as a coping mechanism, it seems best to just harden your heart and try to shut off the feelings altogether. As if the physical distance isn’t enough, you find that the emotional distance begins to grow. Out of stubbornness, denial, and hurt, you refuse to bend to the new rules that govern your communication and vulnerability. Over time, you begin to feel as if your significant other doesn’t know you anymore. You feel uncared for, unappreciated, and unvalued. At that point, the only solution you can see to restore your feeling of worth and connection is to find someone new who can give you the affection and attention you long for.

The third, and hardest, option is to choose love. I’m not talking about infatuation. I’m talking about gritty, messy, ride-or-die love. This kind of love requires active mental engagement. Sometimes the feelings of longing and heartache overshadow any feelings of love. Consequently, if you don’t feel love, the only way to cultivate it and protect it, is to choose it. What does this look like? Well, this probably looks different for every couple, because personalities and maturity definitely come to bear on the dynamic of a relationship. However, my husband and I, through our flexibility, commitment, and profound care for one another, have found some practical ways to choose love on a daily basis.

Choosing to love my husband well begins with joyfully putting on my wedding rings every morning and reminding myself of the vows I made to him; this shapes my attitude and allows me to better extend grace and understanding. To maximize our communication, I write down “keywords” that will jog my memory so that the next time we get to talk, I can quickly update him on things I did or thoughts I had so as to included him in my daily life. I send him text messages encouraging him with reminders of my faithfulness to him and to our marriage, not just messages full of fluffy, romantic, “I love you’s” (though I definitely send those too). More than just praying for God to “be with him,” I strive to pray for my husband with specificity and diligence, often times sharing those specific prayers with him. When people ask me about my husband, I take the opportunity to recount the ways I am thankful for him and how I cherish being his wife. Sometimes love looks like spending an hour and a half putting together a section of a 500 piece puzzle from the dollar store so that I can make a cute, crafty card. When days are busy, love looks like making time for a short phone call just to say goodnight. On the weekends, love looks like making FaceTime a priority.

…….

If we don’t actively choose love, we passively choose resentment and isolation, because it is love that keeps our hearts tender. Thus, if you love well, the heartache will always stay fresh. Cultivating a healthy long-distance relationship involves working against the elements and staying vigilant. But, if you put in the work to weed and water and plant, you can be confident that the Giver of growth will bless you with a satisfying harvest. It is not easy, but, after these past several months, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it is always worth it.

I chose love the day that I married my husband, and I will choose it every day until death do us part, no matter the distance.

 

If You’re Staying More Than One Night, Unpack

I don’t remember where I first heard this, but it is such good advice. Haven’t you ever considered that there is a reason that hotels have empty drawers? And no, it’s not just for decoration or a TV stand. Oh, but everything is organized in your suitcase? Well, I’m sure I am not the only one accustomed to the fiasco of day three when after ten minutes of searching, everything you once had neatly folded and packed is now in a messy heap on the floor, only to be shoved right back into the suitcase. But imagine, had you used the drawers, the stress, time, and wrinkles would have all been minimized.

In an effort to avoid the presumably unnecessary work of unpacking and repacking, we create for ourselves more work and stress along the way, even in the simple things such as finding a pair of socks.

I think I often approach life this way. Maybe it is because I’m in my early twenties and for the past seven years, my life has been a semi-constant state of change. From moving to Virginia, graduating college, working full-time, getting married, moving into a new apartment, finding a new church, getting a puppy, starting PA school, and, most recently, becoming a navy wife, there has been little long-term constancy. (And because of this newest life change, I’ve signed up for never having long-term constancy…whoop, whoop!) The people I am around, the schedule I keep, the responsibilities I uphold, the free time I have… it has all been altered with each of these changes.

And with so much change, it is oh so easy to convince myself that it is not worth it to unpack since my current stay is temporary. As a result, I find myself living life out of a suitcase.

So, what does it look like to live life out of a suitcase? For me, it looks like detachment, loneliness, nose-to-the-grindstone, and, often times, like self-pity. It looks like only being half-present and half-invested in the people around me. I mean, why would I invest the effort to get established or connected when I am probably not going to be around long enough to see any personal return on that investment? It looks like being a spectator of life lived in community, but never a participant.

I can look back and see how I missed out on so many opportunities to build relationships, get involved in activities I enjoy, and serve those around me. I was afraid to unpack and make commitments, extend hospitality, or pursue friendship out of the fear of having to soon repack and leave. However, that fear only created more stress for me along the way, even in the simple things.

Whether you are in a particular situation or season of life for only a month, a year, or even for 5 years, it is worth it to unpack, invest, and create some roots. You may just end up with relationships, experiences, and life lessons that you will take with you wherever you go.

Even if it is hard, always unpack.

Effective Communication: A Two-Step Process

During my junior year of high school, I took an AP Language and Composition class with one of the most infamously difficult teachers in the school. It was the hardest class I had ever taken and the one B I got in high school (not that I’m still bitter or anything). Throughout the semester we had a fair number of large writing assignments, many of which required a double-digit page count. But oh how I I loathed writing! Any time I would try to make decent headway, it wouldn’t be long before I was stuck and frustrated. Worn down by the struggle, I went to my teacher for help and this is the input she gave me.

You cannot brainstorm and organize a paper at the same time; it is two separate steps.

First, you have to write any sentences, phrases, and/or ideas that come to mind. Don’t focus on if they are contradictory, extraneous, or grammatically correct. Remove your filter. They don’t have to be logical, sequential thoughts; they can simply be bullet points. Just get everything out on the paper.

Then, you can take those ideas and actually start organizing them. Group your thoughts and see how they fit together to support your conclusion. Consider things you wrote that might seem in opposition to help refine, or even change, your point of view and solidify your perspective. Determine if there are areas that may be lacking support or places where questions remain unanswered; narrow your efforts on filling in those gaps to help lead you to a robust and satisfying conclusion.

That advice saved me many a late night in college and, surprisingly, it has saved me many a late night in marriage.

I’ve realized, the hard way, that this same principle is applicable to the way my husband, Louis, and I approach communication, especially in the context of conflict and decision-making.

Just like writing a paper happens best in two steps, effective conversation does too! If not, as I’ve learned before, the result is cumbersome communication, frustration, and a poor conclusion.

In a conversation, brainstorming often looks like…

Uncovering expectations | Revealing insecurities | Unloading jumbled thoughts | Changing  opinions | Expressing raw emotions | Making judgments | Sharing perceptions |

On the other hand, organizing often looks like…

Articulating facts | Assessing pros and cons | Considering solutions | Raising objections | Dispelling emotions |  Making decisions |

If you are a brainstormer like me, you love to externally process. You enter a conversation raw and will follow wherever the conversation leads. If you are an organizer like Louis, you love to internally process. You enter a conversation with a set perspective and a set goal. And even though sometimes I don’t act like it, one is NOT better than the other; they are both very necessary steps toward intimate and effective communication. However, just like with writing high school papers, if we try to brainstorm and organize at the same time, it is not long before we become frustrated. Then, in our frustration, we give into our selfishness, become quick to speak and slow to listen, and end up farther from resolution.

But, with quality communication being a mutual goal, Louis and I have been able to find solutions that help us harness this difference so that it is an assent, not a nuisance, to our marriage. To do this, we have addressed the problem at the root and are learning how to approach conversation as a two-step process. The newlywed stage of marriage has been wonderful, but has also been very difficult in various ways, some of the most notable being the lack of community and the difficulty of finding mentors who can speak wisdom into the difficulties we are facing.  So, being mindful of that, I want to share some of the tips we have learned.

For one, it is helpful to have conversations dedicated to brainstorming that way we can be quick to organize when we need to. One way this happens is by Louis’  intentionality in engaging me with emotional and introspective questions on a regular basis (which can be very challenging when we are both so busy and tired at times). Additionally, I am more intentional about being forthcoming and vulnerable, rather than selfishly and sometimes, stubbornly, withholding until he asks.

Also, it is helpful to deliberately set aside time at the beginning of discussion to simply vocalize perceptions, opinions, and ideas without the pressure to present logical points and move toward an immediate solution. This has made a huge difference for us! We have agreed to give each other grace and allow raw emotions to be expressed, resisting the urge to interpret comments as personal attacks. Allowing space for us both to feel heard diminishes the need to be defensive and lets us truly listen to the other person’s point of view, so we can more easily move toward resolution.

Then again, there are other times when we start a conversation and then realize it would be most beneficial for us to pause and take time for us to each internally process on our own and then come back later to finish the conversation. This is especially helpful when emotions are charged, because it allows us to unpack our emotions individually and then come back together when we are less heated and ready to listen and be humble.

Finally and very simply, I have had to change the way I view miscommunication. I’ve had to learn to appreciate that often times, all that needs to happen is to simply recognize miscommunication for what it is and then, move on. It is destructive to overthink it or turn it into a big, emotional deal. As a result, my tone, attitude, and motives are much improved when addressing Louis if something does come up.

Learning to communicate well with one another is a long journey and we are far from perfect at it. To be honest, because Louis and I are complete opposites, it has been quite a challenge for us, being especially difficult to truly understand the other person’s approach and reaction. However, with God’s grace and our unwavering commitment to one another, we are slowly but surely learning, adapting, and growing to be better communicators as husband and wife. The longer we have been together, the more we understand the roots of some of the communication issues we have encountered, allowing us to target the problem at the source and find solutions that work for us.

One day I anticipate Louis and I will get the hang of this communication thing and then we will look back at this post and laugh at our newlywed selves. Until then, we will choose to find joy in the learning process and exchange advice along the way!

Now it is time for you to share your advice! What are some tips that that have helped you and your spouse learn to communicate effectively??

 

Why Did I Write Wedding Vows I Know I Can’t Keep?

I got married just over a year ago. It was a beautiful October day. The air was a little chilly but, with the heat that my nerves were generating, it felt perfect. There was no more frantic planning or details to get in order. I had gotten a great night of sleep and the honeymoon bags were packed. Our dear friends and family were there, many having driven 12 hours or more, to watch as my bridegroom and I finally started a new family together.

I am not usually sentimental about things, but I am rather sentimental about words and emotions. Throughout the planning process, I didn’t have as much of a vested interest in whether the room was decorated well enough or my hair was styled perfectly or even if the pictures turned out how I wanted (and everyone knows how important the pictures are). The one thing that, for me, epitomized the success of the entire wedding was that Louis and I could personally write and read our own vows to one another. That is what the day is supposed to actually be about anyway, right?

I spent so much time trying to find the perfect string of words that conveyed all the love, affection, and fierce commitment I have for this beloved man of mine. There were multiple drafts, an emotional computer crash, and then more drafts. And when it came time to finalize them, I was so ecstatic to soon proclaim to Louis all that I vowed to be and do as his wife.

On October 17, 2015, this is what I vowed to Louis.

Jump to present day.

I am sure that I have broken every single one of the things I vowed to Louis.

I have disrespected him. I have used words that are definitely not life-giving. I have refused to serve him and have served myself. I have chosen not to pursue reconciliation and instead cling desperately to my pride. Most of all, I haven’t always made Jesus my greatest priority in our marriage.

Whether someone writes their own vows or uses standardized ones, we all stand up there and vow things that we know we can’t follow through on. We make promises that we know we will break. We give the impression that we will be the perfect husband or wife. Is that how we should really be starting a marriage?

Why is that? Why do we write or recite wedding vows we know we will break?

Some of my first thoughts were that maybe it is out of pure tradition. Many of aspects of a wedding are based on tradition: the bouquet toss, the first dance, the white dress. Maybe we recite vows because we believe that to be a necessary element to a wedding. But nowadays, many people seem to be doing away with “traditional” elements of a wedding.

So maybe it is the naivety of new love? Maybe naivety makes us believe that somehow our marriage or our spouse will be the one that makes all the messy things in life disappear. We will be the couple that beats all odds because no one has experienced or can truly understand the depth of love that we have for one another. Romantic, right?

As I recently found myself rereading my vows, I was overcome with emotion when I realized why I wrote vows I knew I would break. And it isn’t something I could have known as I read them to my, now, husband for the first time.

I wrote them as a reminder.

My vows are a humble reminder that I can’t rely on my own strength to be a good wife. They are a reminder of the possibilities that come from a life and a relationship that is submitted to the Lord. Real, true, honest love cannot be maintained outside of the intervention of the Lord, for God IS Love. Love bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things. My vows remind me that love always perseveres to that end.

We don’t write our wedding vows for our wedding day. We write them for every day after that. On our wedding day when we are full of emotional love, it is easy to commit to and believe every one of those vows. That is why we write them for all the moments when it isn’t.

There have been times in my marriage when I have needed to open up my computer and read back through those vows. I have needed to regain the perspective that my husband and my marriage is more than just this moment of hardship, or disagreement, or pain. I’ve needed to read that our foundation is not our ability to avoid miscommunication or never act selfishly, but on our fervent commitment to live out a marriage that is a living example of God’s redemptive and faithful presence. I have needed reminding.

……

I don’t know what your story is, but I think we can all use reminding that we can’t do this life alone. And, that we don’t have to. We all have a way of making life messy and ugly sometimes, and I pray this would serve as a reminder to both you, and myself, that God loved us at our darkest and there is nothing He can’t heal or redeem.

Our First Anniversary: Celebrating the Hardest Year of My Life

We have (almost) made it!! On October 17, 2016, the hubby and I will be celebrating our first anniversary. What?! I almost can’t believe it. This year has been so good, yet it has brought with it a plethora of challenges as well.

Every couple’s first year of marriage looks different. I can confidently say that, for me, our first year of marriage definitely proved to be the hardest year of my life. The moment I said, “I do,” I vowed to be responsible for another adult human being. If you’re telling me that is not hard, I’m convinced you are either lying or delusional. Adult human beings (in many ways, even more so than child human beings) are messy, complicated, and selfish. So put two of them together and…?

This past year was NOT hard because learning to be Louis’ wife is difficult. Au contraire! Louis is aptly suited for me in ways I would not have even thought to pray for. He is not perfect, but he strives to encourage me, support me, lead me, challenge me, humor me, and love me with a devotion and ferocity that is uncontested. No, this past year was hard because learning to be anyone’s wife is difficult. Additionally, being a wife means being an adult, and it turns out that that isn’t so easy either. This past year, my husband and I have had to make some of the hardest decisions, experience the most transition, step into completely new roles and responsibilities, and attempt to serve and love selflessly in ways we never have before.

In other words, I have had a lot of growing and refining to do, and that didn’t come without its pangs. I had to reevaluate the way I communicate. I had to reconsider ways in which I cling to entitlement and expectation. I had to refocus in Whom I put my security and trust. I had to throw aside the lies that I allowed to set up residence in my heart and mind. And those things, my friend, are not easy. As a way of celebrating my anniversary, I want to revisit, share, and rejoice in some of the hard lessons I have learned these past 365(ish) days!

10 Hard Lessons I Have Learned in Year One 

1)  Having your spouse pick up on subtle hints may seem more romantic, but it just leaves you disappointed and your spouse confused. 

This applies to everything from physical intimacy and lunch preferences to doing house chores and navigating new feelings. My husband is the total package, so if he is not a mind-reader, I can bet that yours isn’t either. It does not take away any sentimentality to simply say what you’re thinking so that you and your spouse are on the same page. Learning this has saved us so much miscommunication and heartache.

2)  Marriage should not be a mission to mold your spouse to be more like you. 

Part of the reason I fell in love with my husband is because of his quirks and the ways he is different from me. I have had to remind myself to not let the stressors of daily life make me forget the joy of having married someone different than me. It may not always be easy, but I don’t ever want my husband to be anyone but himself. Marriage is about unity, not uniformity.

3)  Maintaining healthy friendships gives life to your marriage.

It is unrealistic to ask my husband to be everything I need all of the time. No one person can do that, no matter who they are. Having external friendships gives me a community of people who can give me perspective, provide a listening ear, and help me process. There may be a number of reasons why friendships are hard to find and/or maintain once you get married, but they are definitely worth the time and effort.

4)  Do not wish this season of life away, even the hard parts. 

It is easy to find myself saying things like, “once we are in a bigger apartment,” or “once we have more money,” or “once I am done with school.” I found myself feeling discontent and just wishing the next stage of life to get here, as if that’s where things would be easier and better. If you’re always looking a mile ahead, you’re going to miss what is right in front of you. You are never going to experience this season of life again. Don’t rush it. Take it all in, because once it is gone, you will never get it back.

5)  Don’t compare your marriage to anyone else’s. 

You cannot compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. I don’t know what someone’s marriage truly looks like behind closed doors or what they are walking through. Comparison is the thief of joy, always. I wrote more about learning this here!

6)  Marriage means you have to be okay with the possibility of getting pregnant. 

God created man in such a beautiful way that the by-product of physical intimacy is children. So, part of having sex once you are married is knowing that there is a possibility of getting pregnant, even if that is not on your timeline. Man-made manipulation is fallible and God works within his own perfect timeline. There is so much peace in knowing that children are a gift from God and trusting that He has control over when and/or if He chooses to bless you with them.

7)  Don’t say “I’m fine” if you’re not. 

When you’re married, you cannot compartmentalize you life. What I do and feel will always affect my husband. Choosing to hold back from him and not be honest simply allows consequences to build up until my emotions inevitably spill out. Once you are married, you don’t have to do life alone. So when my husband asks if I’m okay, that is my opportunity to let him in, because I know he is always for me and he wants to know me deeper. Don’t let insecurity, embarrassment, or fear influence you from speaking up when you are not fine.

8)  There is never a “right time.” 

As a type-A control freak, this one was hard to swallow. We can compile an organized, color-coded, 5 year plan, but it wouldn’t be any more productive than doodling on construction paper. Life is unpredictable and it is a better use of my time to learn how to handle the curveballs with grace rather than to try and devise a plan around them. I have realized that there will never be a period in my life when life is not messy, so sometimes the question I have to ask myself is, “why not now?”

9)  Fiscal responsibility is not popular and it is not fun.

So this may seem like it should have been obvious, but it definitely was more challenging than I thought.  Sticking to a budget and aggressively paying off school loans can be super sucky at times. It involves rarely eating out, eliminating clothes shopping, and often times limiting ourselves to free date ideas. It can sometimes feel as if I have to say “no” to anything fun. However, the discipline of working toward long-term goals and pursuing fiscal decision-making and responsibility together has actually served us well in our marriage.

10)  You will get better at it.

I remember times when I sat on the bathroom floor and bawled until I had a headache and was out of tears because I felt like I wasn’t getting any better at understanding, serving, or loving my husband. I felt like miscommunication was inevitable and I was destined to get things wrong forever. Failure is a part of doing something new. Embrace it, learn from it, and never lose hope!

Perhaps you are only a few months into marriage, are engaged to be married, or you are hoping marriage is somewhere in your future. Maybe you have been married for decades. Wherever you find yourself, I hope this has been an encouragement to you. Marriages are a beautiful gift from God that are always worth fighting for, protecting, and CELEBRATING!

[I know that I still have SO much yet to learn, so I would love to hear from you! Comment below with some of the things you have learned throughout your marriage!]