Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Marriage: 9 Years/9 Reminders

Photo by Kuenne Photography

This summer, Luke and I celebrated our 9 year anniversary and this fall, we will have been together for 10.
I love being married and I love the way that it's changed and grown me.
But it's hard.
And it takes a lot of fighting for our marriage for it to be good and healthy. Sometimes fighting each other, but mostly fighting ourselves.
Luke and I had both been hurt by marital dysfunction and divorce before we said our vows, which made those vows that much more important to us. We were going to make this work, or die trying. What we had seen was that marriages never suddenly break. They crumble. 
Grain by grain. Hurt by hurt.  Divorces are never sudden, they are always years in the making, no matter what the circumstances involved. 
We've also seen lots of God's grace and healing and redemption through those crappy circumstances. There are no ashes that He can't make beautiful again.

Even though 9 years is nothing in the grand scheme of things (if anything, the longer you are married, the more you realize how LITTLE you know), I feel like time and life have shown me what the important things are. The things I need to be constantly reminding myself of, to grow in or not get lazy about, that keep my marriage from crumbling and make it sweet and safe and lasting.

(None of these are fixes or bandaids for abusive or toxic relationships, please don't hear that. There is a lot of additional help, like counseling and law enforcement, that is absolutely necessary for those.)

This is not a How To list written by an expert, but a Reminder list written by a sinner.
If anything, this list is for myself. 
But I hope it encourages you and your marriage too.

1.) Be kind to each other.

We can check off all of the lists of best practices in marriage we want. But things like ‘Weekly Date Nights’ or ‘Never Going To Bed Angry’ won’t matter at all if we overlook this simplicity in its purest forms.

Being harsh and sarcastic and cutting each other down will cause more damage than we realize in the moment.
Being gentle and kind and patient and encouraging will always go farther than we could ever imagine.

 There are plenty of ways to joke or flirt or call each other out without taking low blows. Work hard to make genuine kindness the primary language of your home. The rewards of it will last long and leave a sweet legacy.

2.) Say “I’m sorry”, quickly and often.

Say it about the little things and the big things. 
Say it before we dig our heels in and fire back.
Say it without adding “but, if you hadn’t…” afterwards.
Say it in front of our kids so that they learn how to say it.

Say it because we value humility over arrogance.
Say it because we love our spouse more than we love our our own pride.

3.) Forgive, quickly and often.

Bottom line, we can forgive, because we’ve been forgiven. 
I can give Luke mercy over the little things and the big things, because he’s given me mercy over a million little things and plenty of big things. 
Even if he hadn’t, God has forgiven me of even more. Way more than I deserve.
When we know how desperately in need we are of forgiveness, it becomes easier to extend it.

Forgiveness doesn’t equal trust. But trust can be restored too. 

4.) Have good sex.

The world is constantly yelling in our ears all sorts of things about sex, and the Church has a sad history of barely whispering about it, if not being completely silent on the subject.

So let me turn up the volume a bit. Here’s what I mean by good sex: 

Hot, passionate sex. 
Clumsy, laughing sex. 
Half-clothed, quickie sex. 
Sick, tired sex. 
Crying sex. 
Grief sex. 

The sum of all of these parts is good sex. Not elevating one of them as the standard of success or failure, but having and appreciating it all. In different days, weeks, and seasons and frequencies.

Good sex changes with two people who are changing together. 
Good sex keeps other people out of the bedroom, whether they are real or a fantasy or behind a screen. 
Good sex is honest, and puts love and grace to where shame is. 
(Read that again. Until you believe it.)

Good sex has magical healing properties. Have it often and watch what happens.

5.)  Speak truth to the lies.

They don't love me. They don't see me. They don't care.

The list goes on and on and the lies get way more specific and way more ugly. 
But those things we believe when we're hurt or lonely are usually just that: lies.
Even when the busyness of life and both of our own selfishness makes a mess of things, there is usually always at least some evidence around us that contradicts the lies. Evidence of them loving us and seeing us and caring for us, even if it's not shown in the way we'd prefer.
There are also a million reasons why we married our spouse in the first place, and those are worth remembering when we start going down the dark hole.

See the lies for what they are, speak truth to them, and fight to believe the best of each other.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  
1 Corinthians 13:7

6.) Have each other's backs.

This covers a lot of different areas and looks different in each one.
It could mean picking up the slack when they're overwhelmed, or being the family cheerleader when they're down. (Or it could mean the opposite: not being Pollyanna for a few minutes and just being real and empathetic.)
It always means:
Being there for them to process hard things. Protecting their vulnerability. Not trashing them to our friends or family. Challenging them to be the best version of themselves. Being fiercely loyal.

Translation: Just be a good friend.

7.) Have good friends.

I’m a big believer in the importance of having deep, healthy friendships outside of marriage, for the sake of your marriage. In our closest friendships, we encourage each other, challenge each other, get REALLY vulnerable, have a lot of fun, never compete with each other, watch each other’s backs, and preach the Gospel to one another. 
 Luke and I regularly encourage each other to go out and spend time with our friends, because we know how important it is for our souls. (And we only get close with people who root for both of us and our marriage, and never against it.) The ways that both of our close friendships and our couple friends have grown us and been a safe haven have only helped our relationship.

Take the time to invest in close friendships and find couple friends. They keep your marriage stronger and make life more fun.

8.) Don’t expect them to be you.

Or you to be them. The differences of each team member are what makes them good. The differences are almost as important as our common ground.

Not everyone should be the quarterback on a team or the drummer of a band or the color red in a painting. It would be a boring, sad, dysfunctional unit if everyone was doing and acting the same. What makes anything beautiful is the combination of unique traits. 

It can sometimes drive us crazy to deal or work with people who aren't like us or who we can't understand. But there's so much good purpose in that.
Look at your marriage and see the beauty of the different qualities that you both bring to the table. Don't try to homogenize the colorful life out of it, welcome and appreciate it.
Because God will use your differences to make you both better.
And your team has way more to offer this way, than if it was just you.

9.) Don’t expect them to make you happy.

Let me explain. 
There will be, or should be, lots of happiness. 
Joking and laughing and fun and romance and intimacy are a must. Those things are gifts, and they create a deep and unique bond that fill our hearts with life and joy.

But there is a longing in every soul that’s deeper than that. It’s a desire to be known and loved and understood and satisfied. And no matter how often we ask other humans (particularly our spouse) to fulfill that sense of belonging and value, they won’t ever fully be able to. 
And often without realizing, we end up resenting it and punishing them for it.

Only God can fill that void, because He created us to have it. 
We were always meant to be satisfied by Him. 
And sin broke that. But when we put our trust in Him, and our restless souls are filled with His word and prayer and community with other believers, our void is filled. And our souls find rest.

I know I’ve used this meal analogy before (food is my thing, ok?), but it’s applicable here too:
Marriage isn’t dinner. It’s dessert. We need to stop asking it to fill us up. 
It’s meant to be enjoyed when we’re already full.

The person sleeping next to us can’t ultimately make us happy in life. 
Our kids can’t either. Neither can our jobs or our hobbies.

But Jesus can. And no matter how much we’ve run from or avoided Him, He welcomes us home with open arms every single time.

Experiencing God's love and grace doesn't just give rest to our restless souls, but it makes us able to love others for who they are, instead of who we want them to be. Especially the person we're married to. 

This is will always be the most important reminder to myself and Luke's to himself. And our constant prayer for our marriage. That God would bind our wandering hearts to himself, and keep us trusting and seeking Him together and fighting for each other.
 Until the end of our days.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Current Faves: Colorado or Bust Edition

Tonight we are heading out on a family road trip to Colorado, where Luke and I are from.  We have all sorts of fun things planned, like trips to the Zoo and Garden of the Gods, a spa day with just me and my mom, and some get togethers with friends and family. 
After the last couple months we've had, we've been really looking forward to the quality time together and the relaxation.

(You really can't help but relax in a place where the air is so thin. Also because everywhere you go there's at least a small whiff of pot.)
(Just kidding.)
(Sort of.)

Anyway! We like to do the majority of our road trip driving through the night, so that our kids sleep as much as possible (limiting bathroom stops and "Are we there yet?''s) and we have as much time with family as possible, even if we're completely loopy once we get there.

But before we head out, I wanted to share some of my current favorite things with you:

1.) As You Wish (The Audiobook)

I'm convinced that there are only two types of people in this world:
1.) People who LOVE The Princess Bride, and grew up watching and quoting it regularly.
2.) People who have never seen The Princess Bride.

If you're in the first category and you haven't read As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (the actor who plays Wesley) please stop reading this right now and go find a copy.
Specifically a copy of the audiobook, and here's why: not only does Cary read it himself, making it that much more endearing and personal, but his impression of Rob Reiner whenever he's quoting him is pure gold. It makes me smile or laugh EVERY TIME. Also there are excerpts from the other actors/filmmakers (like Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, etc.) who voice it themselves and it makes it that much more special to hear their experiences from them.
This book is such a gem because he lets you in on what it was like to make the movie that most of us consider to be a magical part of our childhood or adolescence. He shares what it was like to be cast as Wesley, the search for his counterpart which would be Robin Wright, mishaps and disasters that almost ruined the movie, the nerve-wrecking intensity of having to learn sword fighting from scratch, and so many incredible stories about the lovable Andre the Giant.
It's completely enchanting from start to finish, and will make you appreciate the movie in new ways.
Luke and I are planning on listening to it (again!) on our trip tonight.

It's available on Amazon, Audible, or at your local library.

2.) My New Hobby Lobby Earrings 

Yes, you read that right- they're from Hobby Lobby! I almost didn't get them because I have a problem with stripes (the problem is that I love them and half of my wardrobe is striped), but I decided to throw caution to the wind and I'm so glad I did.
In general I'm drawn to big, leathery earrings (which these are) and I've found that the black and white stripes stand out in an unusual but really cute way. I've gotten compliments on them every time I wear them, and YOU CAN TOO!

Go grab them for $6.99 (which is basically stealing), and some of their other cute earrings while you're at it (I've got my eye on those blue leafy ones too).
 You can find them up at the front towards the registers. 
(Right past the magnets, bibles, Joyce Meyer books, and those TY stuffed animals with the big, creepy eyes.)

3.) Seasoned Tuna Packets

Okay, I realize that packaged tuna can definitely be filed under 'bizarre things to get excited and or/write about', but you know how I get when I'm jazzed about something and there's no stopping that train. Plus, let's face it, I'm sure I've written about and recommended weirder things to you than this.

These have been my go-to summer lunch or snack, because they are so magnificently flavorful for something so easy and healthy. Both brands Bumble Bee and Starkist offer a ton of different flavors (found in the aisle with the canned fish), my personal favorites being the Lemon Sesame & Ginger and the Spicy Thai Chili (followed closely by the Siracha). You can eat them on their own (yes, they are that good) but I usually try to involve an avocado, maybe some hard boiled egg and cucumber.

They go for a buck a piece, people. They are so refreshing and delicious, you need them in your life.
So please.. move past the concerning fact that I just spent time out of my day writing about tuna, and trust me on this. You will not be disappointed. 

4.) My New-ish Boxing Gloves/Bag

Earlier this spring, I got myself some boxing gloves and a punching bag (which Luke hung in our basement for me) and it's been awesome.
I wanted a different exercise option at home other than workout videos or lifting small weights, and because I have hyper-mobility (douple-jointed!), a lot of standard exercises like push-ups are hard on me and my over-flexible limbs and joints. (I'm like Elastigirl! Except that she can use her powers to save the world whereas I'm borderline useless. Other than that, we are basically the same.)

But I've always enjoyed kickboxing, and am able to work muscles that I usually have a harder time getting to, like my shoulders and certain arm areas. Plus I've loved that depending on the intensity and pace, I can get a really good full-body workout in a pretty short amount of time.

Punching bags can be pretty easy to find on Craigslist or at sporting goods stores, and the Everlast gloves (make sure to buy hand wraps too) are pretty widely available. I got mine HERE.

If you have the space for it, and you're looking for a treadmill or workout video alternative, this might be a fun option for you.

Plus, lets face it, you guys.... it's just fun to punch stuff.
Enough said.

Well, thats all for now.
 I have to go finish packing and make sure the kids didn't smuggle anything weird into their stuff, like I don't know.. the cat.
OR a bunch of sauce packets from Taco Bell (this has happened before and ended horribly.)