Well friends, Riley and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on September 5, 2018. I’m a couple of months late, but it’s become a little tradition for me to take some time to reflect on the past year of marriage and share a few things that I’ve learned. I have a tendency to live my life with little to no time for intentional reflection. The act of slowing down, opening my eyes, reflecting and then formulating words is really difficult for me. The good, growing kind of difficult. The stories and lessons I choose to share in these blogs each year are real. Some of them are light-hearted, some are deep, but each of these lessons would be easily overlooked without intentional reflection. So, here we go!
1. When he’s happy, I’m happy
My super smart hubby graduated with his Masters in Family Therapy this summer. This two-year intensive program was every bit as demanding as they warned. In fact, before Riley started the program, they actually invited each student and their immediate families to an orientation night basically to say, “These next two years are going to be hard. We just need you to know.” I’ll be honest, when Riley and I attended this orientation, I didn’t take that warning seriously. I knew it wasn’t going to be rainbows and butterflies, but I was sure Riley and I would be the exception and walk through the next couple of years with ease. For the most part this was an accurate prediction. It helps that Riley has an extremely high capacity to perform academically while holding a full-time job. We didn’t feel financial stress during this season which was a huge blessing. However, the last six months of Riley’s graduate program was difficult for reasons I hadn’t considered before I was living it. As Riley became more familiar with therapy and all that comes with it, he began to realize that becoming a therapist was not something he was interested in doing. While he was excelling on the academic side, he quickly learned that meeting with clients in the therapy room was not how he envisioned helping people in need. Ultimately, he was unhappy. He began questioning his choice to go to grad school and even questioned if he wanted to finish the program at all. He struggled with dedicating so many hours finishing the requirements for his masters in a field that he didn’t find enjoyable. He persevered and finished his masters and I couldn’t be more proud of him, but seeing my husband unhappy was really, really difficult. Since graduation, Riley has started working as a Youth Advocate for USD 383. He is excelling at his job. With his family therapy background, he has the opportunity to build relationships with students and parents outside of a therapy room. He is happy! When he’s happy, I’m happy.
2. Don’t say no to adventure
The other day I told Riley, “I’m glad when we decide to do something, we just decide we want to do it and figure out a way to make it happen as we go.” This just seems to be our style. This is not the way every couple chooses to operate, but I’m glad we do. There’s a chance we’re being irresponsible and it’ll come back to bite us some day, but I’m not too worried about that. Last Christmas, Riley and I decided to we wanted to go to Cancun. We had been saving up for a vacation for a few months and had plans to go over the summer, but decided we didn’t want to wait until summer. We got online, looked up rates and booked a trip within the hour. Three weeks later, we were poolside in Mexico. Similar to that, we make a trip to Colorado each summer because we enjoy our time there. No agendas, just rest and exploring in the mountains. More than just spontaneous vacations however, opportunities for adventure can come in different forms. While Riley was applying to jobs after grad school, he was mostly looking in the Kansas City area. I told him that I wanted to stay in KC and he was in agreement. He happened to apply to a few jobs in Manhattan, just to see if anything would come of them. Looking back, I’m not sure if I should be more upset that he didn’t consult me a little more before applying to the job he would eventually accept, but God had a plan. When Riley got offered this job, I knew right away that this was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. God would provide, he already had in so many ways, and we needed to say yes to this new adventure. Three weeks later, we packed up a moving truck and headed westbound on I-70 toward Manhattan.
3. God wants me to be brave in my marriage
Reading back on the four things I learned in my first year of marriage, I talk about communication. Not surprisingly, communication remains one of the most difficult things about marriage. If you know me well, you would know that I will do just about anything to avoid conflict. Interestingly enough, I used to think I was a people pleaser, turns out I just really hate conflict and try to avoid it at all costs. Honestly, I think of my dog Ellie. When she feels threatened by another dog, she rolls over on her back in a pose of submission in an attempt to avoid any type of conflict. She doesn’t want a fight, she just wants everyone to be cool. That is really how I live my life and I see it play out in my marriage. At church this morning, the pastor read the following verse,
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
He said that God calls us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. Peacekeepers, have a tendency to avoid conflict. They don’t make conflict, they just keep peace by not involving themselves in conflict. A Peacemaker is different. Peacemakers actively create peace. Sometimes this means doing the uncomfortable thing. If I’m honest, when I avoid conflict in my marriage, it doesn’t mean conflict doesn’t exist. It just means I’m willing to avoid it because I’m fearful to do the uncomfortable thing. Instead of being content with keeping peace, God has called me to be brave in making peace in my marriage. Have the hard conversations, ask the hard questions, apologize and give grace or offer forgiveness even when you don’t feel like it. The good news is, God has made me brave. I can do it. It’s who I am. Can you tell I’m still working to convince myself?
4. Marriage is for real
I can remember when Riley and I first got engaged, feeling so frustrated with people who were so negative about marriage. I couldn’t believe the amount of people who began conversations by saying, “Oh boy, marriage is really hard!” as if just by saying those words they were going to help prepare us for our marriage. I’ll be honest, I really was naive to how difficult marriage can be and I think that’s okay. There’s literally no way to be completely prepared for marriage. After three years of being married to Riley, I’m starting to get it. Ha! I say that with so much love for my husband, truly! I recently realized that I’ve now been married to Riley longer than I knew him before we got married. This isn’t unusual. Many couples will hit this mark within the first few years of their marriage, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing that reality is. The fact that God can take two individuals and lead them in creating a life together really just blows my mind. A few days ago, I started thinking about how my life might look if I hadn’t married Riley. Where would I be living? What kind of job would I have? Would I have a dog? You know, the important things. I am in actual awe thinking of all the ways God has blessed our life together. I love so many little things about the life we’ve made together. I love that Riley gets excited about Christmas and enjoys watching cheesy Hallmark movies with me. I love that he was on board with getting not one, but two dogs. I love that we both value and prioritize time with our family. However, I am not naive enough to believe that having a happy, healthy marriage is anything less than a miracle. Marriage takes grace. Grace for your spouse, grace for yourself and SO much of God’s grace to cover all the times when our grace falls short. Marriage is the real deal and I am so thankful that God stands in the gaps when I fall short.
Marriage continues to grow, shape and challenge me to become more like Jesus and that’s what it’s all about, my friends! Year four, let’s do this!
Here are some of my favorite moments from our third year of marriage!