The One for Four Years

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Four years, my love. Four years since we stood in front of our friends and family and the river and pledged to love one another always, in all ways. What did we know, besides that we had chosen each other? We certainly didn’t know of the wilderness that laid ahead of us, or the fruitfulness that was to follow. We didn’t know how to argue or decide who would take out the trash. We didn’t know when or where we would settle down. And I’m so glad. I’m so glad we jumped all in, at the ripe age of twenty-one, not knowing it all. All we knew was that we had each other and that was enough. It still is.

Happy anniversary, darling. I wouldn’t want to do life with anyone but you.

The One with a Blizzard

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The storm brought us twenty-something inches of snow, a forced five day vacation, and a rediscovered love of goldfish. We survived our first blizzard with school work and Netflix and random recipes, and our street didn’t see a single plow until three full days after the snow had ceased. We shoveled and met neighbors and let the dogs run wild in the snow. But mostly, we just snuggled up together. Joe and I had opposite schedules last fall and between our crazy holiday schedule and moving into the new house, we were in sore need of quality time together. It had been so long since we could just relax and spend time with one another, without full schedules or mile-long to-do lists. We threw in some productivity here and there, but our snowstorm priority was just to relax with one another. It was restoring in a surprising way – I hadn’t even realized just how badly we needed this storm, this forced vacation with each other. And really, it shouldn’t be so shocking that at our very core we are designed for this – to seek comfort and find our truest selves outside of the agendas and full calendars. When we relax into feeling known and loved inside of a relationship, with God or with people, we find real freedom and peace.

Maybe next time we’re feeling weary and burdened, we’ll seek shelter before there’s even a storm. And just maybe we’ll have enough sense to double up on the macaroni and cheese.

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The One with the Wilderness

Whilst my writer friend/college roomie/shopping buddy extraordinare was visiting us at the new house, we talked long and hard about all of the big scary life things – our worst fears, our lofty dreams, the spiritual terrain of our lives. After a nourishing and honest sermon about what it looks like to walk through wilderness (listen to the podcast here), we shared wine flights and opened up about our very own desert places and what it looked and felt like and where we did or didn’t see God moving. The thing about having a friend who has seen you through a wilderness or two is that they just get it – they know what you look like in a joyous season of harvest and they’ve seen you in the lowest spaces, craving spiritual milk but coming up empty. Amanda has seen me everywhere and in between, and when she walked through the wilderness, I was there, too. She writes about it all beautifully on her blog (which you can find here), and she talks about it at coffee shops and Paneras across the east coast.

“Tell you story, dear sister.”

And so, here’s a little about my wilderness.

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If we’re going off of loose definitions here, let’s call the wilderness the area that we journey as our lives weave in and out of fertile valleys. The wilderness, for me, was a place of heartbreak and confusion and general frustration. It’s the time where I felt far from the Lord, not for lack of church attendance but because I was convinced He had stopped fighting for me. My wilderness spanned the greater space of a year, and it’s in that raw and tumultuous desert that we built our marriage. I’ve got a big soft spot for that arid space, and tears and prayers and hope for anyone currently dwelling there.

My extraordinarily high hopes fell flat in that wilderness, and our tiny apartment was filled with unmet expectations. We were newly married and heartbroken over everything our lives weren’t. What was surely a formula for happiness (young newlyweds + adorable mountain town + a paid-for education) was instead a dry landscape of disappointment. Living together wasn’t easy. We missed our college community terribly. Graduate school was not where I wanted to be.

When the arguments stopped and the silence remained, our fear whispered.

Had God forgotten us?

In a time where I imagined we would thrive, we instead merely survived. While we managed to find good friends and plenty of laughter in that wilderness, we both knew what it looked like to bear fruit and live joyfully, and we were so far from those fertile lands. Our first anniversary felt like the biggest finish line I’d ever run through. We set our sights on Baltimore and didn’t look back. And when we suddenly walked out of that wilderness and into the wilds of Charm City, we found more oxygen and stronger limbs than we had before. A sense of lightness and belonging enveloped us, along with an incredible community of people, and the silence was broken. We could see and hear and feel God moving in our lives. And of course, he was there all along. While the wilderness felt isolating and infuriating, God was there at every trial, quietly strengthening and refining us. We were never broken, not once. We remained, albeit at a distance, and He remained with us.

So, dear friend, rest assured that you are not alone in your wilderness. There is hope, and there will be beauty. Tell your story and let someone walk alongside you.

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 107

The One with Three Years

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My darling Joe,

Three years of marriage, can you even believe it?

I was so sure of how I felt for you on that day in July.  I loved you more than I thought I could love another person, and yet somehow that love has grown over our past three years of marriage.  Doing life next to you, waking up next to you, loving Jesus next to you, moving north next to you, parenting a puppy next to you – I couldn’t ask for a better adventure or a better partner to share it all with.

Three years ago we vowed to love and honor one another as we entered a covenant of marriage. And on that day we were surrounded by our closest family and friends.  Today, as we celebrate our third anniversary, we’re still surrounded by dear ones.  It’s all too fitting that on the eve of our anniversary, you met a friend for coffee and I joined the girls for a movie night.

In our first year of marriage, it was you and me struggling against the world.  We survived only by the skin of our teeth, and landed in Baltimore for year two, where we learned to breathe and finally caught our stride.  But I think year three has reminded me most of where we started – surrounded by loved ones who make us better servants of God and better servants of each other.  I think that year three of our marriage was for and because of them – our best supporting actors and actresses.  Our family in the Carolinas and our family here in Baltimore.  Loving them and letting ourselves be loved by them in return has enriched our marriage tenfold.  I am a better wife and a better woman because of them.  You are a better husband and a better man.  And together, we’re that much stronger.

So my love, while we’re dining tonight at our favorite spot in Little Italy, let’s remember to raise our glasses to the people who saw us through year three, and the ones who will make the next three years our best yet.

xoxo