4 Lessons in 4 Years of Marriage

Four years ago today I married my very best friend.  And I know that is a cliché that is easy to type up and sounds nice and cute, but I truly mean it.  Before we even started dating or got engaged or got married or had a beautiful baby boy, he was first just a good friend.  He was my favorite person to spend hours at coffee shops with. My favorite person to carpool with to church. I am so thankful that before any of the love began to form, that God was knitting a friendship between our hearts that was built on His perfect love.  This bond built on our shared love of good coffee, running, God, and poetry began in coffee shops as friends. It began with carpooling to church. It began with editing each other’s poems for Maclay’s class. 

Marriage is beautiful, but it also is a lot of hard work.  It takes intentionality, dedication, sacrifice, and humility.   And becoming parents only makes it harder. In a lot of ways, becoming parents has brought us closer than we ever have been, but I would be absolutely not telling the truth if I were to say it was all roses the entire first year with Hudson.  In those early days with Hudson, I was not myself. I cried, yelled, and fought. It wasn’t Lance I was mad at it, but he was the one that was right there to take it. The truth is when you both are living on very minimal sleep and most of your time is dedicated to nursing and worrying about your little one, your marriage will likely take a back seat.  I am thankful that pretty early on in Hudson’s life, we realized that we needed to be even more intentional about putting our marriage first in this particular season. That is where the phrase: I love you more than Hudson, less than God; was born. I am no marriage expert, but I would have to think that part of the reason certain marriages end after all the kids have moved out is because the loves got reordered.  Somewhere along the way the love for the child outweighed the love for the spouse. And through this reordering, love for God, also seemed to fall in ranking. As I type this, I am praying right now, that the loves in my heart can stay in order. I pray to first and foremost, love God the most. Then, Lance. And then, sweet Hudson Boy and any other future children we may have. 

Even though we are just a few years in, these past years have taught me a lot.  Again, our marriage is by no means perfect, but I am proud of who we are becoming and this team we have become.  I look forward to (God Willing) the many, many years ahead and the lessons that will come with it. I would love to be still writing this blog in 46 years and be able to share a “50 lessons in 50 Years of Marriage” post, but for now we are at 4.  So here are my four major lessons I have learned in our first four years of marriage:

 

1. Prioritize Time Together

It was our three year anniversary that we began a new Friday tradition of sharing our rose, bud, and thorn of the week.  While it has not always been on Friday, we have been very consistent with carving out this weekly time and for us, it has been incredibly helpful.  As life continues to get more full and busy, it is essential to have a time every week where we can hit pause and stop and talk about the good, the hopeful, and the hard.  I feel so thankful that we started this weekly rhythm because while it’s sad to admit, I think if we didn’t start this, I would have missed out on knowing the heart of my husband.  I would have missed out on knowing how the small things that happened that week, like a day at the beach, was the rose of his entire week. I would have missed out on knowing why he came home so tired and the true reason we seemed to keep fighting.  I would have missed out on knowing his dreams, ambitions and hopes. While I am sure some of this stuff would have come up over dinners or outings, I don’t think it would have been as clear. It would have been paired with Hudson throwing food everywhere or with other people and noises and distractions. If you don’t intentionally set a weekly and monthly time for just the two of you, it is likely not going to happen.  Just like all good things, it takes planning and prioritizing.

2. Be Clear with Expectations 

It was just a few months after our first anniversary that we had one of our major fights that revolved around cheap wine.  My parents had given Lance and I a pizza cooking lesson. I was really excited for this date and had all these expectations of how the evening would go in my head.  In this cooking lesson you were able to bring your own bottle of wine to sip on as you flipped pizzas in the air and knotted garlic knots. I asked Lance to pick up a bottle of wine for us at Trader Joe’s for us to bring.  I didn’t tell him about any of the expectations I had. I didn’t tell him type or price tag or that I was expecting something a little bit nicer than normal. I just said wine and like the good husband Lance is, he did just that. He bought wine: 2 buck chuck.  Absolutely nothing wrong with 2 buck chuck, but it was not in line with my expectations for that night. To me, that pizza lesson was a special night for us and I wanted something a bit more special. I also was much more immature back then and cared about how people would perceive us if we brought cheap wine to a fancy cooking lesson.  It’s sad, but this wine fiasco made me cry and fight with him basically the entire day leading up to the lesson. I can still remember showing up to the kitchen with red rings around my eyes from crying all day. Thinking back, this feels so small and stupid, but I think if a lot of us our honest, the bulk of our fights are over the small and stupid.  If I had just clearly told Lance, my expectations I had for the wine he bought, none of the 2 buck chuck drama would have occurred. Sometimes all it takes is being incredibly clear. Can you please pick up a bottle of wine that is in-between the 15-30 dollar mark, preferably a Cabernet and if it has a cute label that made you think of me, that would also be a nice touch.  Be clear.  He can’t read your mind. 

3. Cheer Each Other On

One of the many reasons I love the sport of cross-country is because it is such a team sport.  I love how the 5th runner is just as important as the first. I also love that you can set goals for the whole team, but you also have your own individual goals of place and time.  I think in a lot of ways, a good marriage functions like a cross-country team. As a team, Lance and I have a lot of major, shared goals: kids, travel, home, running. Individually, we also have our own goals.  We have our own passions and career goals. This is so important and healthy! When Lance started his first company, I wish I could say I was the most supportive wife, but unfortunately I was not. I was resentful that he got to pursue his passion, while I was left dealing with the stressful job of teaching and was knee deep in essays to grade and behavior issues.  I did not do a very good job at cheering him on. And I regret this. Part of the reason I struggled to fully cheer on my husband was because I was fully consumed with work and was not pursuing any of my own passions. Currently, our marriage feels super healthy and I think that is largely to do with the fact that we both are pursuing our passions outside of work. Not only do we each have our own side projects we are working on, we also just wrapped up training for a marathon together.  This shared goal of completing our first marathon and qualifying for Boston definitely brought us closer together. As I mentioned in my last post on the marathon, it was an amazing feeling to literally be cheering each other on as we passed each other on the bridge.

4. Pray Together (Even When You Don’t Feel Like It) 

They say you shouldn’t go to sleep mad at each other.  I can see the benefit in this, but to be fully honest, sometimes sleep is what is needed for us to resolve an argument the next morning.  We have found that when we do try to resolve something before bed, it often just becomes worse. For us, the phrase that makes more sense is don’t go to sleep without praying together.  Lance prays aloud for us every single night. We have done this from the very beginning of our marriage. The key here is to do this regardless of how you are feeling. If it was up to me and my heart, there would have been many nights where praying together would not have happened due to my own pride and selfishness.  When I am mad, my gut reaction is to turn my back and disengage. When I am mad, praying together is the last thing I want to do. The Lord knew what He was doing when he gave me Lance as a husband. Lance has this amazing ability to do the right thing even when his emotions tell him otherwise. Even on the nights when I turn my back and give him the silent treatment, he flips me over, takes my hand out of my firm angry, arm cross and prays for us.  How thankful I am for a husband that ignores my stubbornness and still is persistent in prayer.  

Happy 4 years, LMC! I am so thankful for our marriage and this beautiful life we are building together.  

You Just Can’t Do It All

Obviously, I know this. There is no way I can do it all, let alone do it all well. However, I live and plan out my days acting otherwise. I think part of the issue is the fact that my main job is being a mom. Since I don’t have a typical 9-5 job, I tell myself the lie that I should be doing more. The problem here is this logic is ignoring the fact that being a stay-at-home is an all-consuming, 24-7 job. If I was still working, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t feel the same type of guilt when I run out of time to go to the grocery store or fall behind on 1st birthday party planning. Actually, I probably still would, and I’m sure working moms can attest to this as well. The point here, is no matter what type of job or lifestyle we live, none of us can do it all and mom guilt is a real thing. Just because I’m a stay-at-home mom does not mean I have the time to have every cabinet in my home perfectly organized or be able to make everything homemade. The truth is, my floors never even look that clean and it almost is always a scramble getting a relatively good tasting meal on the table. I can’t do it all.

Back to my previous point, about guilt and staying at home. I think since I am not physically bringing in a pay check to help support our family, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure (solely created by me) to hold my end of the stick by ensuring the house is kept orderly, healthy meals are on the table, and parties look like Pinterest. Not to mention that Hudson is well-fed, clean, and happy, which let me tell you, just that is a full time job. And that is the problem. Just doing that sometimes doesn’t feel like enough, so I tack on all the other things. Train for a marathon. Be involved in MOMS Club. Teach bible study lessons. Create fun experiences for Hudson. Plan playdates. Organize all the cabinets and closets and drawers. Substitute teach. Write a blog. Create a podcast. Go to yoga. Wake up early. Budget. Buy all the gifts. Plan and host events. And the list could go on. I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining because I really am not, I feel so thankful to be in the place to do those things, but what I am saying is that it can quickly feel overwhelming, even if my main job title is “mom.” I can’t do it all.

I tell myself I can do it all because I see through the windows of social media what other moms are doing. But here’s the thing, I am just looking through a window, I don’t get the chance to see the things that she has chosen to let go of or say no to. This is huge. This is what I need to constantly remind myself. No one can do it all. I see the perfectly made lunch, but I don’t see the mess in the kitchen. I see the miles and miles of training she logged, but I don’t see the nanny. I see the beautifully laid out blog, full of amazing content, but I don’t see the strained relationships. We are just seeing windows. Remember this. We can’t do it all.

This is a lesson I am currently learning. If I’m honest, even typing this up I feel a bit phony, as Holden Caulfield would say. I am still figuring this lesson out. I say I can’t do it all, but I still convince myself I can run 50 plus miles a week, write 2 blog posts a week, record a new podcast every week, keep the house clean, plan Hudson’s birthday party, and most importantly be the most present and loving wife and mother I can be. This last one is the most important to me, but sadly my days do not always reflect this priority. That needs to change. And it will. Words and miles will always be there for me to come back to, but this time with my husband and sweet little boy, that I can’t get back. So I will keep typing it until it sets in. I can’t do it all.

Sunshine & Simplicity

This mama needs sunshine & simplicity.  This past weekend I was reminded how much I missed the sun.  This has by far been the coldest, rainiest winter Southern California has had in years.  As the coldness is slowly drifting away and the sun is making its way back, I am remembering my love for the sun and summer and the beach.  When the seasons shift, I can really feel it in the air.  It is a subtle change, but I can almost always sense it and the shifting seasons always brings me joy.  Even though I experienced that season just a year ago, I so quickly forget the joys found in it.  I become excited for change in weather, clothes, and activities.  This year, I am even more grateful for sunny days since they have been so few.

I am learning more and more that what makes me happiest is often involved around two things: sun and simplicity.  If we aim to incorporate simple things with sunshine, it is likely everyone will be happier because of it.  Last weekend when we were in San Diego, we had three meals out.  Two of the three were at nicer restaurants.  The other one was at a deli in San Clemente called Billy’s.  Of these three dining experiences, the most enjoyable was at Billy’s, where we ordered veggie sandwiches on squaw bread and sat outside at a table.  It was quiet, peaceful, simple.  And it was one of our very favorite moments of our weekend.  When we were reflecting on our little trip on the drive home, both Lance and I talked about how Billy’s was memorable.  Isn’t that funny how that works?  The most unplanned and simplest part of our entire weekend was the part of the trip that produced the most joy.  I was not stressed about Hudson making a mess or noise.  I was not worried if we were disturbing other people.  I was at peace because we were at Billy’s and we were outside and we had veggie sandwiches and Hudson happily threw puffs everywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice restaurant, but there is something to the simple plans, the simple food, and the sunshine that has a way of leaving an impression that the fanciest restaurant just can’t touch.

I was again reminded of this truth when Lance and I had date night this past Saturday.  While we typically drive to a relatively nicer restaurant for dates, we chose to do the very opposite and it was one of my very favorite dates in a while.  Instead of drive, we rode bikes from my parents’ house to the strand.  It was bright and sunny and lots of people were out.  It felt like summer.  It felt like freedom.  I love Hudson to pieces of course, but it felt so fun to ride bikes with my husband and for just a couple hours not worry about diapers or a runny nose.  We rode and talked and laughed.  The second plan to our date was to be spontaneous in choosing a place to eat.  This defies every part of our normal character and routine.  But it felt fun to not have a plan, until we realized we are not very good at being spontaneous.  We walked from overpriced restaurant to the next and read fancy menus, but none of them stood out to us.  We kept walking until I suggested we just get Lemonade and bring it down to the beach.  And this is exactly what we did.  And it was perfect.  We sat by a volleyball court and sipped lemonade, ate poke and curried cauliflower and talked about our weekly rose-bud-thorns of the week.  We did not need cloth tablecloths or overpriced food or waiters or glassed waters.  It turns out those things just don’t matter that much to us.  What actually makes a date is the words exchanged, the setting sun, and the twinkle I can see in my husband’s eyes when he looks at me.  Simplicity.  It is easy to run towards the extravagant, the fancy, the over-planned.  You have to really be intentional about living simply at times, especially with the type of culture we are living in.  The culture that tells us to consume, consume, consume.  Especially on special occasions, like date nights and birthdays, it is easy to fall into the trap of over-elaborate and fancy, but if you can take the simple route, there is something so sweet about it.  Simplicity + sunshine.  Good things come from these two.  Even better things come from these two when they are centered around Jesus.  That is the key of the entire equation.  Whether we are at a fancy Italian restaurant or picnicking at the beach, if our hearts are not centered around Jesus and His love, the experience will end flatly.  We need simple things and the sun, but above all else we need The Son.

So, next time you are left wondering how to fill your day, I have a few suggestions.  I would start with Jesus.  What is he putting on your heart?  I would start with prayer.  What do you have to say to Him?  Then I would add some simple things and sunshine.  I would go outside.  I would grab a book and read outside in the warmth of the sun.  I would eat hummus straight out of the container.  I would slice fruit.  I would call a friend.  I have a strong tendency to overcomplicate, over-plan, overspend.  I believe the lies that more is better.  That a higher price tag is better.  That the more crammed into one day must mean more was accomplished.  I am finally learning that this is simply not true.  Veggie sandwiches eaten in the quiet, cool shade of Billy’s deli beats fancy pasta and stuffy restaurants any day.

 

To Take a Hike

This mama needs to take a hike.  I will explain the hike part later, but first thing to know is that today is New Year’s Day.  January 1st, 2019.  I am a fan of New Year’s.  I love goal setting and dreaming up big plans for the next year.  I love the chance to start new patterns and fix old ones.  I love cleaning and organizing and putting away all the christmas decorations.  I also love reflecting on the past year and taking the time to really examine it.  This morning as I put out my new, blue and floral planner; I flipped through my 2018 planner.  I was instantly drawn in, as I turned the pages of each month and was taken back.  As I paged through, I was struck with a feeling of disappointment.  The months from January-May were covered with events, important to-dos, and meetings.  As I looked through those months, it felt like I was looking at the planner of a different person.  I had forgotten how full my teaching days were.  The calendar for each month had 10 different colors of ink on them, arrows were drawn, and each little box was bursting with words.  By June it was blank.  Of course, June and July had nothing.  Hudson was born.  But then August-December looked so much less important than January-May.  A lot of days, the boxes were blank.  The to-do list section had changed from planning lessons and meeting with parents to cleaning floors and organizing the spice rack.  At first when I saw these differences in calendars this morning, I felt unimportant.  Do my days matter as much as they used to?  This is a terribly sad question to ask and I think it makes the Lord feel sad too because I know deep down that He loves me with a great love that is absolutely unrelated to what I do.  He loves me because I am His daughter.  I am clothed in Christ.  His love has nothing to do with how full my calendar looks or how busy and important I appear on paper.  Thankfully I have a husband that can also point me to this truth and pull me away from the lies that I so often fall trapped in.  This is where the hike part comes in.

We hiked at Will Rogers today.  When I say we, I am also including everyone else that chose to hike on New Year’s Day.  I guess that is a thing.  It was the most crowded I have ever seen it.  Anyway, our hike started rocky.  Actually, our day started rocky.  I let that calendar comparison eat away at me.  I let the lies of “I am not enough” take over.  I let it affect what was supposed to be a happy hike to start off 2019.  I even suggested to Lance that he should just go without me and I can suffer alone in the freezing house (heater is broken).  I can be very dramatic.  Despite my sour attitude, we managed to leave the house.  We were warmed up by the heat of the car.  It is amazing how being extra cold can affect your outlook.  As my freezing hands and toes began to thaw, I felt better.  When I had hot peach blossom tea in my hands from Alfred’s, I felt even better.  As we drove through the beautiful Brentwood neighborhoods and dreamed about our future, I felt light and happy.  However, when we got out of the car and began our hike, it was freezing again and that poor attitude again so quickly returned.  I find it amazing how quickly I forget.  How quickly I turn away back into my sin.  It is scary.  Sin is scary.  This is just another reason why we so desperately need Jesus.  While we almost turned around, we kept walking.  Once on the trail, Lance suggested we both say what we are thankful for.  At that point, he was hoping to salvage what was left of our New Year’s hike.  At first, I did not want to.  I did not feel like it.  But, I could see he was just trying to turn things around so I went.  I told him that I was thankful for him.  For loving me despite the fact that I can make it really hard sometimes.  Then he went.  He told me he was thankful for me.  For the fact that I stay at home with Hudson and care for him.  He told me how much it means to him and how he knows it can get overlooked and not feel as important but that he sees all that I do.  This hit my heart in such a raw way because it was exactly what I needed to hear.  It released tears because all morning I was crying out to be seen and heard through my poor attitude and Lance (through the Holy Spirit) fed me the words my soul thirsted for.   It took away the lies that my 2018 planner told me.  I went on to explain to Lance how I had been feeling and my experience with the planner earlier that morning.  And again he gave me another truth.  He told me all that I do with Hudson, those types of things cannot be put down in a calendar or in a to-do list. This does not make them unimportant.  This again spoke so directly to my heart.  I was taken to all the late night nursings, the holdings, the shushings, the soothings, the playing, the changing of diapers and outfits, and all of the loving.  Those things cannot be put on a planner.  They typically are not what we write down in our to-do lists for the day, but that absolutely does not take away from their great importance.

I needed that hike today.  Actually, like always, I needed Jesus.  It just so happened that Jesus spoke through Lance on that hike, so I guess I needed all three.  For those of you who also were in a funk at the start of the New Year, I hope these words can encourage you that the shaky start does not need to define your 2019.  I hope that you can see through my sin and silliness, that grace can enter in just a moment when you least expect it and that hike you thought was going downhill can actually be the very thing that starts your year off in the best possible way.