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Months ago, as I was considering the word that would define my year, one word settled in my soul. After a year of releasing things and people and feelings and stories, it was time to enjoy.

OW_enjoyAnd in the months since choosing that word (or did it choose me? I don’t know), I’ve thought about what it looks like to enjoy life.

You ready for this earth-shattering, groundbreaking revelation?

I. HAVE. NO. IDEA.

Whew. I feel better.

When I think about a life filled with joy, a person that embodies the very word, I do not fit the bill.

Isn’t the joyful person carefree and bubbly and spontaneous and upbeat? If you know me at all, I am none of those things, so what does it really look like to enjoy life?

I read a quote recently by Henri Nouwen (it was on the Internet, and I haven’t actually read any of his books, shame on me!) that said: “We have to choose joy and keep choosing it.”

Okay, there’s one clue to this mystery. Sometimes, maybe lots of times, joy is a choice. And not a one-time choice.

That is the theme I’m seeing repeated in these first few months of the year.

When I started this joy journey, I thought of course this year would be more enjoyable because the past few years have been so awful that anything–anything–had to be better. In some ways, I was right. We are healthy in multiple ways, finally thriving after years of merely surviving, and that in itself is a reason for joy.

Still, this fear: What if it doesn’t last?

What would you say are the best years of your life?

I posed this question on Facebook after Phil and I had a conversation about “the best years of your life.” At various times in our life, people have told us “this is the best time of your life!’ They’ve said it about high school (sorry, not true); college (um, maybe?); the first year of marriage (nope); seminary (not even close); and parenting young children (sigh). I’ve heard it said your 20s are the best years, your 30s and so on for every decade of life.

Which is why I posed the question. I suspected people of varying ages would answer the question differently. And I was right!

The responses I got ranged from high school to middle age to retirement.

And I’m beginning to think the answer to enjoying life is this:

The best days are now.

The best years are now.

If we choose to let them be.

Maybe you want to throw your computer across the room when you read that. Part of me wants to give myself a stern talking to for saying those words because I have been in some days, some years that I would not consider as best and I would have cussed out anyone who tried to tell me otherwise.

But here’s another truth: Even the best of times have their faults, and if I’m looking for perfect circumstances before I let myself enjoy life, I’ll die empty and miserable, having wasted the days and years I was given waiting for something better.

When I think back on the life I’ve lived so far, high school wasn’t great, but I made some good friends. Would I do things differently if I could? Absolutely. But I had no idea who I was or who I was becoming, and I think that’s another key to enjoying who you are and where you are. College, too, had its high points, including an unbelievable semester living in a manor house in England and traveling to Scotland, Ireland, Paris and Italy. I’m constantly dreaming about going back. But college was also a time of messy self-discovery. I learned some hard lessons and made some of the biggest mistakes of my life.

If I had to answer that question, I’d say my 20s were pretty great. Post-college, I made some amazing friends, had some great experiences of hanging out, going to concerts, traveling and doing the kinds of things when you’re young, working full-time and have no other obligations or attachments. But I struggled in those years to enjoy my job and I desperately wanted an other of the significant kind in my life, and even after I found him, he spent a year in Iraq, which was another of those best-worst times. Even then, I didn’t know who I was.

And my 30s? They’ve been full of marriage messes and family messes and learning to parent and failing and getting back up and figuring out what God has planned through all this. Even though I crest the hill of my 30s next month and look at the downhill toward the next decade of life, I can’t say that my 30s have been the best, either.

So, where does that leave me? Hoping that in my 40s life will get better? It’s possible. But it’s also possible it won’t. I could get cancer. My husband could die. My kids could give me crushing grief.

I don’t know what the next decade of life could bring, so I have to draw a line now and say: This. Right here. Right now. This is the best time of my life because it’s the only time I have. <Tweet that>

best time

I know it’s not easy. I know it takes work. I’m working at it every day. And I know it’s worth it.

I hope you’ll decide to work at it, too and find it worth the effort.

On Friday, I’ll share some specific ways I’ve found to enjoy life, even when it doesn’t look like I thought it would.

In the meantime, ask other people the question: What would you say were the best years of your life? The answers will surprise you.

And if you care to share your answer, leave a comment here.

Let’s help each other choose joy in any and every circumstance.

 

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  1. Notice mouse droppings in the pantry of the old farmhouse you’ve just moved into.
  2. Convince yourself that it’s probably not recent because no one has lived here for a while.
  3. Accidentally drop a large piece of pizza between the fridge and stove.
  4. Forget to clean it up.
  5. Ask husband if he cleaned up the pizza the next morning when you notice that it is gone.
  6. Conclude that you definitely have a mouse in the house.
  7. Freak out.
  8. Ask friends what they recommend for traps.
  9. Buy traps.
  10. Place one glue trap between the fridge and stove to catch the mouse on its path from the pantry to the counters.
  11. Wait. Overnight, if possible.
  12. Avoid looking at the area the next morning when you wake up.
  13. When children insist the trap is moving, call husband out of bed to dispose of mouse and trap.
  14. Breathe a sigh of relief and continue to enjoy your new home.
  15. Forget about mice for months.
  16. While using the step stool to put away spare sheets in the hall closet, decide to finally clean up all the accumulated plastic bags on the floor of the pantry so you can return the step stool to its rightful place.
  17. Notice mouse droppings.
  18. Convince yourself that those are leftover mouse droppings from the last mouse because you aren’t a terribly thorough cleaner and you can’t remember how well you cleaned the pantry anyway.
  19. Collect plastic bags to take to recycling.
  20. Jump and scream when you move plastic bags and a little mouse scurries across the pantry and disappears into the wall.
  21. Run to the bedroom and jump on the bed where your 4-year-old retreated when he heard you scream.
  22. Take deep breaths.
  23. Convince yourself you can finish the clean-up job without screaming.
  24. Don gloves and gingerly pick up plastic bags until you can see the floor again.
  25. Move glue trap to the spot where you saw the mouse disappear.
  26. Recycle plastic bags at the grocery store.
  27. Tell husband about the mouse.
  28. Forget mice exist.
  29. Get on with life.
  30. On an unsuspecting day when you’re sitting at the computer and the children are running through the house, scream as you see a grey blob scurrying across the kitchen floor right toward you.
  31. Freeze.
  32. Run into the bedroom and jump on the bed with the kids while hubby is getting ready for work.
  33. Point and shriek when you see the rodent peeking out from behind a chair in the bedroom.
  34. Watch in horror and awe as your husband tries to trap the mouse in the hall closet.
  35. Scream again when the mouse escapes into the kids’ bedroom.
  36. Wonder out loud if maybe it’s time to move again.
  37. Take husband to work.
  38. Eat lunch when you get home.
  39. Let kids play outside so you can wash the dishes that piled up from the day before when you were sick.
  40. Remove from the kitchen the cardboard boxes for recycling and boxes of donations to take to Goodwill.
  41. Go back outside and play (which actually means ignoring the mouse problem.)
  42. Decide to walk to the park and back, which will kill about 2 hours of your day.
  43. Have fun at the park.
  44. Invent errands to run when you get home from the park.
  45. Go shopping at Target for water bottles and the grocery store for canned pizza dough because you wanted to make homemade dough but the kids wouldn’t leave your side.
  46. Attempt to roll out canned pizza dough.
  47. Curse and yell at the pizza dough that will not stretch correctly.
  48. Decide to go out for dinner.
  49. Eat at CiCi’s pizza.
  50. Go to another park.
  51. Return home for the fastest bath times in human history.
  52. Go to Chick-fil-a early for indoor play time before hubby gets off work.
  53. Tell hubby about your terrible horrible no good very bad day that also had some good points.
  54. Let the 6-year-old girl call her grandpa to talk about why she’s scared of the mouse.
  55. Sing children to sleep.
  56. Wear slippers to bed.
  57. Go to church the next morning because it’s Sunday and it’s the best place to be.
  58. Talk about your mouse problem and how it’s scaring the children (just the children, of course).
  59. Come home from church refreshed.
  60. Eat lunch.
  61. Enjoy family nap time.
  62. Pretend the mouse has vanished.
  63. See mouse scamper through the kitchen the next morning while everyone else is sleeping.
  64. Wake sleeping husband and convince him to put traps on the path.
  65. Send your daughter to school the next day with hope that the mouse will be gone by the time she’s home.
  66. Send hubby and son to Lowe’s for manly purchases.
  67. Clean parts of kitchen with fear and trepidation while they are gone.
  68. Convince yourself mouse is nothing to be afraid of.
  69. Let husband and son back in the house as husband points out the mouse scurrying across the kitchen.
  70. Leap onto the bench at the counter/peninsula while husband resumes attempt to catch the mouse.
  71. Watch him squeeze himself into the pantry while trying to trap the mouse.
  72. Sigh with dread as mouse disappears. Again.
  73. Spend the rest of the day battling big emotions and crying.
  74. Lie down for a few minutes before picking the girl up from the bus.
  75. Work together as a family to cook a delicious dinner.
  76. Put the kids to bed.
  77. Bait a trap with peanut butter.
  78. Discover mouse droppings in a place that makes you want to puke.
  79. Watch Doctor Who to take your mind off things.
  80. Hear sounds from the kitchen.
  81. Send husband to investigate.
  82. Breathe easier when he tells you he has caught and disposed of a mouse.
  83. Sleep soundly that night, without slippers on.
  84. Tell kids the good news the next morning.
  85. Put daughter on the bus.
  86. See mouse scurrying through the kitchen as you and son prepare to leave for playdate.
  87. Tell husband to bait another trap, even if it means the mouse will be your problem later in the day while he’s at work.
  88. Hear sounds in kitchen before you and son leave.
  89. Tell hubby that mouse may already be caught.
  90. Leave for playdate and enjoy time outside of the house.
  91. Return from playdate to learn that second mouse has been caught and disposed of.
  92. Spend next two days tiptoeing around your house, jumping at slight movements and shadows, ears alert to any kind of noise, unconvinced that mouse problem is over.
  93. Tell Facebook friends you need prayer because you are going crazy over this.
  94. Get on with kitchen/laundry chores because it can’t wait.
  95. Report mouse problem to landlord.
  96. Wait for landlord’s call.
  97. Consider getting a cat against landlord’s policy.
  98. Write longest how-to list on the face of the earth.
  99. Leave readers hanging in suspense because you really don’t know how this is all going to turn out.

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I used to hate Valentine’s Day.

It was a subtle hatred. Well, frankly, it was driven by jealousy, so  maybe it wasn’t really hatred at all. I spent most of my Valentine’s Day single and without a “special someone.” I even wrote a column for the newspaper about how stupid I thought Valentine’s Day was. (I don’t think that was the actual theme. All I can remember is that I rallied the single ladies in our community before Beyonce’s song was even written.)

See, Valentine’s Day used to exaggerate all those lonely, inferior feelings I already struggled with daily. It felt like an exclusive holiday, and I hate being excluded. I didn’t want to be “out” just because I didn’t have a boyfriend. But rather than honestly deal with those feelings, I deflected my insecurities and gave passionate explanations for my feelings.

Love shouldn’t be limited to one day a year.

It’s a Hallmark holiday.

Flowers and candy are a waste of money.

I wouldn’t want a man to celebrate our love just because the calendar says so.

And on and on I went.

Then, 10 years ago, I fell in love. Or maybe love fell on me.

We weren’t dating yet when it happened, but I just knew. I knew that I loved this man, and I was going to be crushed if he didn’t love me back. But I was willing to let that happen because what I felt the day I realized I loved him was bigger than me. We were friends. Probably the best of friends. And I knew going forward that if he didn’t love me back, we couldn’t be friends anymore.

About two months after we started dating.

About two months after we started dating.

That’s storybook stuff, but I can still feel the weight of that realization today.

I loved him. Period. And I had no sure idea how he felt about me.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Have you ever been asked that question? Ten years ago, I couldn’t have given a good answer. I’m not sure I could today either.

Ten years always seemed so far in the future. Yet, here it is. Like turning the page of a book.

I turned 26 that year. Funny, but it was the same year I started to see the possibilities for my writing beyond newspaper journalism. (That’s something to explore another day, I guess.)

My best friend had started dating a guy in our circle of four, and the fourth member of our group was about to head east for military training. But he gave me a present–a Care Bear I’ve loved nearly to death since then–and a promise, to call while we were apart for three weeks.

It was a glimmer of hope, a memory that still makes me smile. He’s always been good at gift-giving, and this was the first of many meaningful gifts.

He did call. We talked on the phone a couple of times while he was away, and I noticed that my world was grayer without him in it. Our gatherings lacked sparkle because he was absent. (He still lights up my world.)

When I took a week to attend a writers conference on the East Coast, I missed his call one night. I was devastated. I was surrounded by writers, some of whom I’d probably be awed by now if I went back and looked at the names. But this blooming love made me blind to any other experiences. This was all that mattered.

We’d spent weeks of our summers at a Bible camp near our hometown, and I first found community at a weekend retreat for the 20-something crowd years earlier. This retreat brought us back to the camp that May, after we’d both returned from our trips.

With some “divine intervention” we found ourselves seated next to each other on a couch for a viewing of The Princess Bride. (It was and is my favorite movie.) I was distracted by his closeness, unable to concentrate on the movie. His arm was resting on the back of the couch, and though it sounds cliche, he eventually got tired of that position and dropped it across my shoulders.

I can still hear the beating of my heart, the questions in my head: What is he doing? Is this what I think it is? Does he mean what I think he means? Is this for real? Am I dreaming?

We were friends. Were we now something more?

I wouldn’t have my answer that night. The movie ended. The spell was broken (so I thought) and we played board games until lights out. I didn’t sleep much that night. And I didn’t want to tell anyone else, afraid that if I did, I would find out I’d imagined it all.

Those fears played with me the next morning. I was sure he would tell me it was all a misunderstanding. That he hadn’t meant anything by it.

Because I was never the pursued one. I was always just a good friend. I was used to rejection. Expected it, almost.

Then he said we should take a walk after breakfast.

And we did. He told me how he felt, and even though I can’t remember the words exactly, I remember how my heart felt like it could fly out of my chest. He held my hand, and we returned from our walk as an “us.”

A year later, at the same camp, he asked me to marry him.

10 years us proposal 1

 10 years us proposal 2

10 years us proposal 3

I said, “yes.”

This will be our 10th Valentine’s Day as an “us,” the 7th as a married couple.

Not every year has been the happily ever after I dreamed of.

Some years have been worse than I ever imagined they could be.

But we still love each other.

And not every day brings the tingly toes and speedy heartbeats of those first days.

Most days reality is not at all like a fairytale dream.

But.

That’s why I no longer hate Valentine’s Day.

Because for a day, we tap into those earlier lovey-dovey feelings and remember what it was like.

Before kids.

Before unpaid bills.

Before marriage problems.

We remember why we fell in love and what it felt like.

If our marriage is like a fire, then most days it’s more like embers than flames. But for a day, we can fuel the embers with memories and keep the fire burning.

I’m no marriage expert. We don’t have it all figured out.

But if I’ve learned anything in 10 years it’s that the flame won’t keep burning on its own.

Ours was almost reduced to ashes once, and I never want to be there again.

So, I embrace Valentine’s Day, not because I want jewelry or candy or flowers or an expensive dinner out. Not because I think we HAVE TO celebrate or our relationship is doomed.

No. I embrace Valentine’s Day as a sacred pause. A time to remember. A celebration of joy. A day of gratitude.

I know it will be a hard day for some. For ones who’ve lost or never had or feel like they are losing.

And because of that, I say, that those of us who have love on Valentine’s Day ought to share it. Valentine’s Day need not be exclusive to those married, engaged or dating. Because love is more than that.

Whatever you do today, love others. And love well.

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Saphora Warren seems to have it all: Married to a successful plastic surgeon, living in a house being featured in Southern Living, with youthful looks that belie her grandmother role.

But on the day Southern Living comes to feature her garden party, Saphora is planning to leave her husband, Bender, for his repeated unfaithfulness. When the party’s over, she packs her bag, intending to retreat to their Outer Banks house for some alone time. But then Bender comes home early and announces he’s dying. Cancer. And her plans vanish into a frenzy of doctor visits and Bender’s convalescence at the very house where Saphora planned to escape.

pirate queenThus the story begins in The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman.

The family–sons, daughter, grandkids–gathers at the house as Bender battles cancer. Through surgery and further complications, they all cope in various ways. Saphora busies herself with family, including grandson Eddie who is with them from day 1. When they arrive at the beach house, they meet another boy, Tobias, who they eventually learn is also sick.

Honestly, it’s hard to pin down what I loved about this book. The characters are well-developed, and there’s an air of mystery as Saphora tries to discover why her neighbor stays up late digging holes in his yard. There’s friendship forged in trial and love discovered and rediscovered. It’s not an escape-your-troubles kind of book, but it’s not depressing, either. Hope threads through the pages as Saphora discovers treasures hidden within herself and her marriage.

I don’t read many books whose lead characters are over the age of 50, but it’s not really an issue in this book. Saphora has a strength of character and grace about her that I think most women would envy.

The Pirate Queen is an honest take on how tragedy can transform a person and a relationship.

To learn more, visit the author’s website.

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I began 2013 with a withered soul. The soil of my heart was dry and cracked and the weeds of disappointment and bitterness were choking the life out of me.

On the outside, I wasn’t much better.  My words were unkind and pessimistic, evidence of the slow hardening of a heart that had been dealt one too many blows. I was barely holding on.

My husband had graduated seminary six months earlier and was jobless in his field. We were raising two kids under the age of five, 800 miles from family, and we were not even getting by.

This wasn’t the life I’d imagined.

Mad at God. Disappointed with my husband. Embarrassed to be asking family for help.

And that’s where I was when I found OneWord365.

ow_facebook_cover

Today I’m guest posting at the OneWord365 blog. Read the rest of my 2013 OneWord experience here.

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Today, I’m a guest writer at my friend Alison’s blog, concluding her months-long series Nothing So Broken. When she asked me back at the end of summer to participate, I wanted to say “yes,” even knowing that saying “yes” meant telling the story I never thought I’d tell.

It’s a love story, and like all good love stories, there’s plenty of conflict. But there’s also hope and grace and forgiveness.

It begins where most fairy tales end: with a wedding.

We stood at the altar, him and me, making promises, pledging our troth, nodding in agreement as our pastor and friend counseled us to lean not on our own understanding.

I was 29. It had been a decade of watching most of my friends get married and begin to have babies, wondering when it would be my turn. Ten
years earlier I had given my life to Christ, and I had expected him to find me a prince worthy of a happily ever after. I had waited what felt like a very
long time, but when I met Phil, I knew from the start something was happening.

Read the rest of the post here.

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So, it’s been two weeks since this called “moving” happened to us.

And I say it that way because that’s how it feels. Like it happened to us and we didn’t have much to do with any of it.

Early on a Saturday morning, a bunch of people showed up at our old house to load up our big stuff.

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Okay, who am I kidding? They loaded up most of our stuff. And did it with such skill and precision that I was left speechless. (Our front lawn looked like we were having the world’s largest garage sale, yet I was assured by our new friends that it would all fit. They were right.)

In two hours we had cleared the old house and most of the stuff we wanted to take with us and were on our way to our new place, where a couple more friends met us and Phil’s boss brought Chick-fil-A sandwiches. (I don’t think it was my imagination that the crew worked a little faster when they heard the CFA was coming.) Such a blessing. In less than an hour at the new place, all the vehicles and the trailer were unloaded and by 12:30 Phil and I were on our own at the new place. Tired. Overwhelmed. And so, so thankful.

See, these people who showed up, most of them we barely know. They’re from our new church and while we know names and faces and Phil has spent some time with some of them, they still aren’t close friends or anything. I was so humbled by their willingness to drive up to our old house and spend a morning helping us move. I didn’t feel like we’d earned that. (Like we have to earn kindness.) They just totally knocked our socks off.

So, we’ve been unpacking. And cleaning. And donating. And decluttering.

And loving our new place.

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Our second night there, we saw this lovely sunset behind our house. Swoon.

We’re slowly making it a home.

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The week after the move, we cleaned up and cleaned out the old house and turned in our keys. A few days later, Phil and I left for Nashville for a marriage conference. We had a little free time.

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We walked around the park where Nashville’s replica of The Parthenon is. And we ate dinner at The Loveless Cafe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This is the face Phil makes when he’s eating the best piece of ham he’s ever had in his life. Southern soul food at its best. And totally worth the two-hour wait to be seated. (Which nearly caused us to have a “loveless” marriage as we disagreed over what to do when faced with that long of a wait.)

And on our way to breakfast Sunday morning, we walked downtown, which smells like beer and urine after what I assume was a typical Saturday night. It’s quieter on a Sunday morning but the smell is something I won’t soon forget.

We passed the Ryman, which reminds me that I know little to nothing about music history. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And we stopped at the river to take a picture of us, something we rarely do right now, especially when life has been so busy and full.

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And after a rendezvous with my parents, we got the kids back after two weeks and made our way back toward Pennsylvania.

We stopped at the rest area, just across the border and took this picture to remind us of how far we’d come.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFive years ago, it looked something like this.

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So. Much. Has changed.

That’s a little of what we’ve been up to. I hope to be back to blogging regularly in August. (At which time our daughter will be going off to kindergarten. Because we haven’t had enough change this year.)

Thanks for sticking with us on this crazy rollercoaster journey we call our life.

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Brad Mathias’ family survived a crisis due to his infidelity when God miraculously restored his marriage and transformed his life. Eight years after that life-changing event, the Mathias family would find itself in crisis again when their middle child, Bethany, began to withdraw from everyone and everything she used to enjoy.

Responding to a prompt from God to ask her what she was hiding, Brad and his wife, Paige, discovered the root of her withdrawal, a close call with death and an eye-opening revelation that they were not as engaged with their children as they could be.

One of the ways God led them in healing and restoration was to take a two-week roadtrip to Canada and the western United States to experience nature and be together as a family.

road trip redemption coverIt’s a journey Mathias chronicles in his book Road Trip to Redemption. (Disclaimer: In exchange for my review, I received a free copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers through the Tyndale Blog Network.)

The first section of the book is some backstory and parenting principles, and while I found them helpful, I was eager to hear about the road trip and the experiences the family had traveling together. So, the first 100 pages were a little slow for me.

But sticking with it paid off. The road trip chapters are well worth the first part of the book (which gives the road trip context) and are inspiring. Mathias’ love for his children and his desire for them to see God for themselves in a personal way in their lives is evident. We’ve experienced one road trip vacation as a family with our young children and Mathias’ tales of their trip made me eager to take our kids on trips as they grow older.

The point of the book, however, is not to say that every family needs to pack up and head out on a road trip, although Mathias provides some tips and plans in the back of the book for that. Instead, he encourages families to be in tune to the uniqueness of their personalities and engage kids where they are. One of the reasons this road trip was necessary for Mathias’ family was the disconnect between the parents and what was really going on with the kids.

In the final chapter, Mathias ties the road trip to parenting and what all parents can learn from this experience.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, which contains pictures of their trip and journal entries from Paige and the kids, and found it a helpful reminder to invest in my kids and my marriage and not become too busy or out of touch that I can’t see what’s really going on. I was inspired by Mathias’ obedience to God when he heard things that didn’t seem to make sense but turned out to be some of the most special experiences of the trip.

For more, check out http://roadtripparenting.wordpress.com/

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On Sunday, Phil and I celebrate six years of marriage. Last year’s anniversary was a big deal for us, and you can read my reflections on that here. We don’t have anything extra special planned this weekend and though I believe every year of marriage is important, some years are more low-key than others.

This is one of those years.

I could probably write a book about what I’ve learned through marriage in six years, but in keeping with the low-key spirit of things, I’m focusing instead on five words I’ve found to be important to our marriage.

1. Grace. Lots of people will tell you that all you need for a successful marriage is love. I think love is important but it’s not always enough. We all need grace, married or not, and grace has been a key player in our marriage.

2. Yes. There’s a place for the word “no” in every relationship and “no” can be healthy. But “no” can also be a door slamming in your face. No, I won’t try that. No, we won’t do that. No, I’m not open to doing it differently. “Yes” is an open mind, a bridge, full of possibility.

Robert Proksa | Stock Exchange | www.sxc.hu

Robert Proksa | Stock Exchange | http://www.sxc.hu

3. Today.  We come into marriage with the baggage of yesterday and dreams for tomorrow. And sometimes today gets lost in between. We have to deal with the past but not live there. We have to hope for the future but we’re not there yet. Today is important and special. I don’t want to miss out on what today has to offer because I’m looking back or ahead all the time.

4. Us. That whole two-becoming-one thing is something I don’t fully understand, but what I do understand is that Phil and I are a team. And we’re on the same team. And while we still have individual personalities and goals and interests, we are part of something that’s bigger than either one of us separately. And the decisions we make are for the good of our family, the four of us living in the walls of this house, and for the good of our marriage. Maybe one time when an us-versus-them mentality is okay.

5. Help. We learned the hard way that we can’t do this on our own. We need God. And married friends who have been married longer than we have. We need teachers, pastors and counselors. (And babysitters; how could I forget babysitters?) Our marriage is personal, yes, but it’s also meant to be communal, as in part of a community. We need help to navigate the seas of marriage because otherwise, we are sunk.

What words have been helpful to your marriage journey?

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Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary.

35 years

35 years. And I forgot to send a card.

Good thing I’m a writer and I can blog instead.

Also, I’m really picky about cards (see previous statement about being a writer) and I’m not sure I could find one to say what I want to say.

My parents being married for 35 years is a big deal. The kind of big deal I haven’t fully appreciated until being married myself.

Not only did they defy some serious odds. They were teenagers and expecting a baby (details I share with you only because in a few months when I turn 35, you’d put the pieces together) and THEY ARE STILL MARRIED.

I celebrate this every. single. day. Because I believe they are an exception to an all-too-common rule. (Tell me about other exceptions you know because I love a good love story.)

I don’t know all the ways they’ve struggled, but I know marriage is a struggle.

And they’ve stuck it out.

I don’t know all the ways they’ve changed, but I know marriage changes people.

And they’re still together.

I don’t know all the highlights of their married life, but I know marriage produces great joy.

And their marriage inspires me.

In world where love stories are often reduced to songs.

romeo and juliet(I’m not hating, Taylor Swift, but you’ve got to admit, we have a point.)

Or feelings, or fairy tales, real marriages with all their pain and trials and commitment and sacrifice give me hope.

This gem from Pinterest says it well.

 

My parents have been married for 35 years, and that is worth celebrating.

But so is EVERY marriage that makes it another year, another month, another day.

Because marriage is hard. And two people living life together day in, day out, is a recipe for disappointment and discouragement and disillusionment.

But it’s also a recipe for redemption and grace and selflessness.

I am not the same person I was 6 years ago before I married my husband. And I won’t be the same person in 6 years that I am now.

All that to wish my parents a happy anniversary.

And to say to all my married readers, “Congratulations!”

Marriage is worth celebrating.

Every. Single. Day.

 

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