I’m Not Cut Out For Marriage

wedding photoNext week Jon and I will be celebrating a milestone anniversary: 13 years of wedded bliss! Thirteen. Thirteen YEARS! I hear that number–THIRTEEN–and a lot of thoughts go through my mind: Where did the time go? Why does that number sound so big? Does this mean that I’m getting old? How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

And the truth is, thirteen years is both a long time and not very long at all. Thirteen years is a teenager, which seems kind of old. Yet at the same time I joke with Jon all the time that he’s still got another 50 years or so left with me if we’re anything like my grandparents, so he’d better get comfy and enjoy the ride. And whether 13 is a long time or a short time, it is a time…and with time, you tend to come out on the other side knowing a bit more than you did going into it.

If I have learned one thing in 13 years of marriage it is this: I’m not cut out for marriage.

You see, marriage is tough. No, tough is too soft of a word…marriage can be grueling. Marriage will challenge you and push you and test you in ways that nothing else on this earth can. I am not cut out for the grueling nature of marriage.

Marriage requires supreme sacrifice. You must sacrifice your time, your energy, your finances, even your very body to the mate you choose in marriage. I am not cut out for the sacrifice that is required of me.

Marriage requires vulnerability. You have to be willing and able to share your strongest hopes, your deepest fears, and your most desperate longings with your spouse. You have to share the thoughts and desires that you thought would be safe harbored in your own mind forever. You have to be willing to hear and support your spouses hopes, and fears and desires–and they may not always be the same as your own. I am not cut out for the raw, honest vulnerability that is required of me.

Marriage requires repentance–gut-wrenching, true-to-the-bones repentance. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And we have to admit that: to ourselves, to each other, to our friends, to our family, to those affected by our actions. Confessing your own wrongs, and supporting your spouse through theirs, is painstaking work. I am not cut out for the repentance that is required of me.

Marriage requires forgiveness. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And yet we have to forgive each other and move forward in that forgiveness. In marriage, grudges and vendettas are outlawed. I am not cut out for the forgiveness that is required of me.

Alone I am fully unequipped to enter a successful marriage, let alone continue in one for over a decade. I 100% can not do this on my own.

But here’s the good news! Even though I’m not cut out for the challenges or the sacrifice, the vulnerability or the repentance, the forgiveness or anything else that comes up in marriage–I don’t have to be. I don’t have to be because I can’t. But together with Jesus? Ahhh…that’s where it all comes together. Jesus has already faced every challenge and lived a life of perfect vulnerability. He made the supreme sacrifice in order to offer forgiveness. And through Him, the One who is perfect, even my own marriage can get a little closer to perfection.

Alone–even together–we are not enough to make a marriage succeed. It turns out that two people who make mistakes on their own don’t suddenly quit making mistakes once they’re together. But with Jesus even two imperfect people can get a little closer to perfection.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this and say that once you have Jesus and make it to your 13th anniversary everything is all sunshine and roses. In fact, this year has probably been the most challenging year we’ve ever had in our marriage. Amidst the triumphs and the joys, there have also been struggles and unforeseen circumstances. This year we have been blindsided by the unexpected so many times that I’ve actually come to expect the unexpected. There have been tears and questions and worries and now-named fears. Yet through it all, there has been hope.

Just as iron is refined in fire, this year “within the fire” has sharpened and strengthened our relationship. Without a doubt, this year has made us stronger than ever before. Stronger because we have each other and, more importantly, because Jesus has carried us through when we were simply to exhausted to carry ourselves any longer. We have learned to support each other better because He has supported us. Even though I am not cut out for marriage, He is. And with Him, our marriage is stronger today than it ever has been.

So, like an awkward 13-year old 7th grader who is finally discovering who they are as an individual, I feel like this year we are finally discovering who we really are as Mr. and Mrs.. It hasn’t come without some bumps and bruises and missteps along the way, but that’s just part of normal development. And with the growth comes maturity, and with the maturity comes more freedom. Freedom to love and to nurture and continue growing together.

I may not be cut out for marriage, but I sure am grateful to be stuck with another person who isn’t cut out for marriage either. Together we make a pretty awesome couple. For 13 years already, and forever more!

The Wedding Vows I Should Have Written

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Today marks 12 years since Jon and I said “I do”.  It’s actually kind of unbelievable to me that a dozen years have already passed since our wedding day…and by the same token it feels like our lives have been joined together for a lifetime already.

Jon and I got married the day after we graduated from college. Two days before our wedding I had celebrated my 22nd birthday. We were full of hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future, and we were babies. We didn’t think we were babies, but WE WERE BABIES (Oh my goodness, Mom and Dad, how did you let me do that?!).

While I wouldn’t change a single thing about the (early) timing of our wedding or the road we’ve been on together since then, I have had some time to reflect on that fateful day and all that it means. Since June 12, 2005 I have had the privilege of living another twelve years. And with time comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. If I were to go back 12 years and talk to that 22 year-old girl wearing the homemade wedding gown, I would share some wisdom with her.

I wouldn’t necessarily tell her to change anything, but I would share some of the lessons I’ve already learned. I’d tell her some of the secrets that took me a decade to discover, some of the tips that actually make life more harmonious. And if I were talking to that giddy bride, I’d tell her to rewrite her wedding vows and make them more realistic. They’d go something like this:

I, Allison, take you, Jon, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward.

I promise to love you equally on the days when everything is going perfectly and the days when nothing is going right. 

I promise to admit when I am wrong, to apologize, and to forgive freely. Even if I am mostly always right.

I promise to tell you the truth–not just when it’s easy or convenient or you ask me to, but also when it’s messy or hurtful or makes me look bad. It’s worth looking bad for a moment if it means that you can trust me for a lifetime.

I promise to make you the first priority in our family. Our kids will be freaking amazing, but you will come first. I will save time and energy and love for you. Even if I’m beyond-tired from late-night feedings or trying to manage laundry piles with gaggles of children hanging from my ankles, I will still make time for you. Because today we choose each other, and each other is a relationship worth keeping strong no matter what sacrifices might need to be made.

I promise to always put the toilet paper roll so that the paper feeds from the top of the roll.

I promise not to blame you for things that are beyond your control, or things that should actually be in my control, but to handle situations as they are: situations that can always be resolved.

I promise to love you when we are so broke that we think we’ll have to foreclose on our house, and when we have enough money to travel the world. Together we will learn to see the lean times as a way to trust in God, and the times of provision will teach us to be grateful and generous.

I promise to support you in your decisions and your pursuits, even if they aren’t quite the same as my own.

I promise to respect you through my words, actions and attitudes.

I promise to advocate for you and always choose your side of the argument: we are (forever) on the same team.

I promise to buy you the “correct” brand of cheese, toilet paper, yogurt, underwear, cereal…well, everything. Even if it takes me 50 years, I will learn all of the “correct” of everything and I won’t let any of that other garbage into our house.

I promise to learn to love the things that you love, and to participate in your passions with you. 

I promise to laugh with you often. 

I promise to chew with my mouth closed and not talk while I’m eating.

I promise to love you as an imperfect sinner (just like myself), and not hold you to the impossible standards of perfection that may seep into my mind.

I promise to walk with Jesus, to change my ways if that walk needs some work, and encourage you in your own walk.

I promise to learn with you.

I promise to follow your dreams with you, wherever they may lead us.

I promise to love and to cherish you, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.

Happy anniversary, Jon! Thank you for putting up with me and loving me so well–I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you.

Twelve down, 50-ish to go!

xoxoxoxox,

Wifey

Reflections at 1 Year Post-Miscarriage

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You know how there are those things in your life that define you–that change you? Those catalyst events that occur, and you know that you will never be the same again. Last year I experienced one such occasion, and it has forever altered my very being.

One year ago this week I miscarried what would have been our third child. I’ve written about this topic several times this year because it’s been cathartic for me and has been a huge part of my healing process. I feel very strongly that my pain should not be wasted, and if my story can help even one other person, then I will continue telling it. Now that it’s been one full year I want to revisit my thoughts–mostly just to check in with myself, but also to share with you about how God has worked in my life this past year. So much has changed…and yet some has still stayed the same.

There is still not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about my lost baby. Even though I know that this was God’s plan for this child–and for me, and my family–it’s still difficult. It’s painful.

I wonder what she would have been like. I wonder if she would have had Jon’s eyes and my nose. I wonder if she would have giggled when her big brothers played peek-a-boo with her. I wonder if she would have enjoyed rice cereal and avocados when we introduced them this month or if she would have spit them out at first taste. I see other babies who are the same age as she would have been now and I wonder if they would have grown up to be friends. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder and the hardest part is that I will just never know. Not in this life, at least, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

So, you see, some things are still the same. I don’t think I will ever not miss this child. Perhaps some things are meant to never change.

On the other hand, some things have changed profoundly.

For starters, I am stronger. I have learned the power of the heart and soul, and mine have been fortified. I know now that I can weather storms and come out on the other side–not just intact, but more powerful than before.

Along with my personal strength, I have been encouraged by the strength of others. So many of you have shared your own stories of heartache and loss with me this year, and walking through these trials together has motivated me to continue moving forward. Going through a difficult time is so much easier with friends, and for all of you who have shared with me, and in turn supported me, I am grateful.

Most importantly, however, I have learned that God’s plan is always perfect. I knew this before, but now I truly believe it. Even in the messy, chaotic, unexpected, heartbreaking turns that life throws at us, God is sovereign and His plan is perfect.

I would not be where I am today–as an individual, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend–if I had not experienced pain and healing this year. We are not meant to go through life feeling like we are in control, because we aren’t. We are not meant to live in total comfort in this world, because this world is not the prize.  We are not meant to suffer in solitary silence, because Christ suffered publicly for the benefit of all people. We are not meant to walk through life alone, because we are created to live in the community of others. The truth is that we are made for a greater purpose, and sometimes pain and suffering are necessary to move toward that goal.

And then there is hope. Because no storm lasts forever, and new days begin just when we need them. Our joy comes in the morning. That is where I find myself now: a place of profound joy. Not superficial happiness, but joy. Joy because I have walked through this time and still experience grace and love and triumph every day. Joy because the end is not really the end, but just the beginning of something totally new. Joy because my story is still being written, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

May you be encouraged, friend, whatever you are going through. Know that with pain comes power. You are cherished. You are never alone. And finally, find your joy–your joy in today, your joy in tomorrow. Find your joy in the journey, and never let it out of your sight.

One year down, and forever ahead. Bring it on!

 

 

10 Lessons I’ve Learned In 10 Years of Marriage

Our Wedding 0425We’ve been celebrating for the better part of a month now, but today is the actual day: our tenth wedding anniversary. TEN YEARS. Holy moly, how did that happen? I swear, just yesterday we were mere babies (seriously, at 22 years old we WERE mere babies) walking down the aisle and swearing our forever love for each other before God and everyone. Then I blinked, we had two babies of our own, we moved NINE TIMES, and here we are today: ten years older and wiser.

These past 10 years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs and exciting twists and turns that we never anticipated in our wildest dreams. They’ve been wonderful years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Yet, as I look back at our 10 years of marriage, I realize that the roller coaster has also been full of learning.

We’ve learned about each other, about ourselves, about what it means to be fused to another human being…for LIFE. So, yes, these first 10 years have been wonderful, but they’ve also been incredibly humbling. In the scheme of things I’m still just getting started on this whole marriage gig, but here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned during my first decade as a wife:

1. Pray together every day.
I received a simple piece of advice at my bridal shower, and it stuck: Pray together every day. We took this counsel to heart, and we have never missed a day praying together–even if we’re tired, or cranky with each other, or the kids drove us bonkers that evening, or whatever–we always end our day in prayer together. For 3,650 days in a row, we have come together in prayer. And you know what? It’s done wonders for our marriage. Some of our biggest decisions and greatest joys have come as a direct result of our daily prayer time. Simple, yes, but profound.

2. Set your priorities: Jesus, spouse, family, everything else.
Here’s the thing: life is BUSY. And the longer you’re married, the busier it seems to get. It helps, then, to set your priorities straight from the beginning. Number one has to be Jesus–this is the firm foundation upon which your marriage can be built and stand the test of time. There is nothing–NOTHING–that a marriage can not overcome as long as Jesus remains at the center.

After Jesus comes your spouse. This is the one person in the world who you have committed your entire self to, and that takes an extreme amount of sacrifice. This means that you support your spouse, you stand up for your spouse, you love your spouse, you choose your spouse–even when you don’t want to. They are yours forever–cherish them!

Next comes your family. Notice that “family” comes after “spouse”. Kids are wonderful, important, life-changing additions to a marriage. But they are not THE marriage. In a flash, your kids will grow up and move out and begin independent lives. And you will be left with–you guessed it–your spouse! Even though children are seemingly all-consuming (of your time, your energy, your money, your food, your sanity) they must take second seat to your spouse. Nurture your children, but never neglect your spouse at their expense.

Finally comes everything else: your job, your hobbies, your (dis)comfort with noise/mess/obnoxious eating habits. ‘Nuf said.

3. Be honest.
Without a doubt, this has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned in our marriage. So much confusion, hurt, and anger could have been avoided if we’d simply been honest with each other.  This goes from the trivial (Saying “I don’t care” when he asks you what movie you want to watch tonight…even though you’re hoping he remembers that you already mentioned 4 days ago that you’d love to see that new Bradley Cooper movie…) to the über-serious (your baggage from your past, your finances, your fears and dreams). In marriage as in life, honesty is the best policy.

4. Have fun together!
Oh, what a drag marriage would be if you weren’t having any fun! On a scale of 1 – awesome, I’d rate our marriage as EXTREMELY awesome. We try to find fun in the mundane (like when we crank up the music and have a dance party as we clean the house). We laugh together. We go fun places together. We look for opportunities to sneak in fun where it really doesn’t belong. After all, life is a lot more enjoyable if you’re…well…enjoying it!

5. Don’t always win the argument. 
Truth: Jon and I don’t always agree on everything (probably because I’m pretty much always right). In the end, though, it usually doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong (or righter or wronger). Some things are just not worth the battle. Peace in your relationship is worth more than being right (even if you are almost always right).

6. Honor your spouse’s differences.
This is one that I keep re-learning, pretty much every day. As much as I love him, Jon is NOT me. He thinks differently, behaves differently, has different preferences and aversions. He likes beer, and I like NOT-beer. He could spend every waking moment of his life tinkering with electronics, and I don’t even know the basics of a circuit board. He likes to relax after dinner, and I like to let nobody relax until the dishes are washed and put away. You see? We’re different. We were created different, and we are supposed to be different. I’m working to learn what makes him different so I can let him be him, without trying to make him be me. Bam.

7. Learn his favorites.
Nothing screams love like giving someone their favorite whatever. When you remember someone’s favorites, it shows that you are paying attention to them and that you care about their personal enjoyment. This can take on many different forms: making his favorite breakfast on the weekend, stocking his favorite brand of facial tissue (this is kind of a big deal in our house), tucking his favorite treat into his work bag, buying a few extra pairs of his favorite jeans when they go on sale. Related to this is learning to speak your spouse’s “Love Language”–which may be quite different from your own.

8. Be the kind of souse I want him to be.
This definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done”. Seriously, though, it’s crucial. If I want him to be patient, I need to be patient. If I want him to spend his weekends working on x, y, and z around the house, then I need to be willing to help him achieve those goals. If I want him to happily send me off for my mom’s nights out, then I need to let him enjoy those beer bashes after work (without making him feel guilty for abandoning me in my greatest hour of need: dinner time with two cranky children).

9. Carry your weight in the relationship.
Imagine a teeter-totter: on one side there is a child, and on the opposite end there is a grown man. No matter how much each of them teeters and totters, that teeter-totter will never find balance. The same is true in a marriage. If one person is doing all of the giving, and the other is doing all of the taking, there will never be balance. You do your share, and help your spouse to be successful in doing their’s.

10. Tell him you love him. Often.
Word.

So, there you have it: My sage advice from a decade of “I do’s”. I hope that you have found some encouragement in these words, and may God bless your relationships as He has blessed mine!

Now excuse me while I go find some cake to shove in my handsome husband’s face.

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Wedding Shortbread Cookie Recipe

This is a big week for me: Monday was my 30th birthday and today is my wedding anniversary! I am so very blessed to have spent the last 8 years married to this handsome man:

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Our wedding was a simple affair–it kind of had to be since we were broke and young and Pinterest hadn’t been invented yet. We held the ceremony and reception in a waterfront park in our college town (again, we kind of had to–we graduated 2 days before our wedding and didn’t have time to get out of town). Our family and friends did all of the grunt work and hard labor when it came time for us to walk down the aisle–and that, of course, meant that they handled the food. If you know me at all, you know that food is, shall we say, a dominant force in my life. So the food had to be good. REALLY good.

Now, good doesn’t have to mean elaborate or fussy or over the top (because our wedding was none of those things). It really just has to taste amazing. One of my favorite treats that we had at our wedding was an arrangement of shortbread cookies made by my dear friend Vickie. They are similar to sugar cookies, but a bit smoother and flakier than your traditional Christmas sugar cookie. These cookies only have 5 ingredients, and they come together in minutes–super simple. What could be better than a simple, delicious, elegant cookie? Not much, really. So, in honor of our anniversary today, I hope you enjoy this little treat from our wedding. Cheers!

Wedding Shortbread Cookies

1 pound butter
1 Cup powdered sugar
3 Cups flour
3/4 Cups corn starch
sugar for topping (plain or colored decorating sugar work equally well)

1. Stir powdered sugar, flour and corn starch together in a large bowl.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter. Slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed butter. Keep mixing until a soft dough forms.
3. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll each part into a ball. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Take out one ball dough at a time. Flatten the dough on a lightly floured surface and use cookie cutters or an upside down cup to cut out shapes (our cookies were heart-shaped).
5. Bake cookies at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the edges of cookies turn golden.