Reference Points

Whew! The past two weeks have been two of the most exciting, emotional, and revealing weeks I have experienced so far in my short 25 years. I say “so far” because my reference points are different, and they’re expanding and changing every day, every week, every year of my life.

So, let’s see. On Monday, January 23 my mom and I piled in my little car, with 2 cats and a dog, and drove 2 days to get from Arizona to Maryland. At 9 in the morning, I hugged and kissed my amazing husband goodbye, as tears fell down my cheeks, while my husband nodded to respond to my question: “You promise we will see each other?”

For 4 days, I unpacked, got the animals comfortable, and dealt with my own emotional repercussions. I worried, I cried, and my reference points changed again.

I had not experienced such emotional discontentment since my husband went to basic training in 2015. And there were no texts or phone calls then.

This past Monday, I started my new job. And I was, and am, so excited about it all. Yes, it’s still new and shiny, and I am young. But this is the industry I was raised in, this is the industry I fought for years to not be a part of, and this is the industry I ended up desiring to be a part of. This is my first “big girl job,” and I am really looking forward to how I grow and how my reference points change.

And they already have. Living with my mom, I commute an hour and 10 minutes each way (and in the DC metro area, it’s usually more like an hour and a half to get “home”). Even though I may not be doing lots of physical activity, I have never been more exhausted when I get home. And I’ve realized how my husband feels. While he doesn’t have the same type of commute, he does work all day. When I wasn’t working, I would want nothing more than to go to something when he got home at 5, or even do something on weekends, and I would get so frustrated when all he wanted to do was sit.

But now I understand. My reference point has changed.

And I told him so. I texted him yesterday to say I was sorry for the way I had acted and treated him when he was working and that I understand now.

Throughout this process, I have felt as if God wanted us to learn something. I am beginning to see what could possibly be the first lesson: reference points.

I can get very needy and clingy when I am not busy. Of course, my husband becomes the object of this neediness. But because I didn’t have the reference points, I couldn’t understand how he was feeling or why he would get frustrated when I would get this way. Now I do. Because now I, too, am tired when I get home from work.

Like I said, I feel like God is trying to teach us (and me) something here. I think He is trying to teach me that I need to learn to relate to my husband on this different level. I think He is trying to show me that my reference points will change as I continue through this life, and that those reference points are going to be what help me relate to my husband as we both find our careers.

I think these reference points are also going to help us connect with each other. When we experience similar things, those reference points become similar, and it makes it easier to be on the same level when we discuss careers, moving, or anything that comes in this life.

The change in my reference points has already made an impact on me. It has changed the way I talk to my husband, it has changed the way I think about our life together, and it has changed the way I view our careers. We don’t have reference points for what life will be like in 10 years, or even for what it will be like in one year. But we have reference points for what we are going through now, and those can be our guide as we continue to navigate our current situation, our careers, and our marriage.

I still think God is teaching us something. And if I can already feel the first lesson, I know the next lessons will be tough. But I also know that I have a husband who is strong, supportive, and loves me no matter what; and I love my husband more than anything. Those are my reference points.

I Married a Realist

I married a realist. There, I’ve said it. I think I’ve been trying to deny it for some time, but it’s undeniable now. My husband is a realist.

I, on the other hand, prefer to dream.

I’m not sure when this realism set in for him. He used to dream. When we first began talking about marriage, he would draw out plans for a house he hoped to build for us. He’d tell me, “See, you even get your very own huge walk-in closet.” I would blush and ask for details about this dream house. He would bring it up every once in a while.

Then I guess life got in the way, and the house talk ended.

I found those plans in an old notebook a few months ago, and they brought up so many old memories.

I asked the other day why he doesn’t talk about it anymore, why he doesn’t dream about those things for us anymore. His response hurt my heart: “What’s the point?”

The point is so I know he still has dreams for us, so I know he still cares about our future. The point is so I can see his heart.

And I think I know what happened now. Life.

We had our first married fight. Then we had another. We struggled financially. We moved. We got new jobs. Neither of us felt that we were communicating well with the other, in part because we communicate differently. We had to grow up together. We had to find ourselves together.

And maybe for him the space left in his heart for dreaming was overcome with the reality of the situations we faced. And maybe he feels, just as I do sometimes, as I’m sure we all do at times, that dreaming is pointless because it will never come to pass.

I can talk about how badly I want to save up for our first house, and I get “slow down, sweetie.” I can talk about how, should we choose, our new area is a good place to raise a family, and I get “you’re getting ahead of yourself.”

Because the reality of our current situation is we can’t afford either of those two things. But I know we can eventually.

In our meeting with our pastors the other evening, we were told these two characteristics, dreamer and realist, balance each other out. And I know that. I know if we were both dreamers, we would probably never have a sense of stability. My husband and I process things through these lenses. But he pushes me to really think about what the reality tells us and to not “jump the gun.” And I would like to think that I push him to dream, even if they begin as little dreams.

I am still struggling with what marrying a realist means. I still struggle with how to communicate my hopes and dreams to someone who isn’t sure they’re feasible or if moving on is the “safe choice.” I still struggle with an aching heart when I don’t hear those dream home plans anymore. I still struggle with an aching heart when he asks me why he should dream. And I still struggle with sadness and frustration when my realist won’t automatically take a leap with me.

But I am also thankful. I am thankful to have someone to keep me grounded. I am thankful to have someone make sure my head stays in the present every once in a while. I’m thankful to have someone who isn’t constantly talking about the future (because I know that would give me anxiety). I am thankful to be married to someone who wants to give his family the best life he can.

I realized I married a realist, so now what?

To be honest, I am not sure what to do from this point. I don’t want to push him into dreaming, because he’ll be uncomfortable. But I also don’t want to be a constant realist because I think it’s healthy to dream. So I guess I have to let him grow and flourish in his own way.

All I know for certain is I can continue to encourage him and build him up. I can continue to remind him that God has amazing plans for him and for our family. I can remind him that I am always with him and for him. I can remind him that all my dreams include him, include our family.

I don’t really know what to do next, but I know God has everything under control.

Reflecting

I want to take today to talk about something else that has been put on my heart today: marriage.

I have been reading Team of Rivals. It’s very revealing about what life was like for those four men who hoped they would be chosen to be the next President of the United States of America. It talks about their political aspirations, their educational backgrounds, their upbringings, their family life, their marriages, their relationships with other politicians, and even how their political desires affected their lives and their relationships.

Today, though, I was struck by Seward’s relationship with his wife Frances. Seward loved his wife and his children dearly, but Goodwin explains “…the Sewards to a far greater extent than the Lincolns, spent much of their married life apart.” And I realized: I have it pretty good in comparison to these historic couples.

I am preparing to move, and this means being apart from my husband for quite a few months. But this is 2017. We have pen and paper, but we also have phones and computers and airplanes. Sure, we can write old fashion letters, which I love. But we can also call, text, and FaceTime. He can fly to visit me, or I can fly to visit him.

Seward and Frances, or Mary and Lincoln, couldn’t do that.

I value our marriage above everything else, but I also know I need to do my share in providing for my family. This job was the way I could do that.

I know it’s going to be rough, but I also know it will be worth it in the long run. Because at one point we will be on the same page, at the same point, in our careers. And this was the only way I felt that could eventually happen.

I am blessed beyond measure to be married to a man who understands my career needs, to love me regardless of a career choice, to be willing to let me take a job because he knows it is important, to always be my support.

Marriage isn’t easy, especially when you get married young. You learn to grow together, to grow up together, you learn about yourselves together. And we are still learning. But I have faith that this will create good growth for us and our marriage. I can just imagine telling our children one day all the things we went through, with the one message being: with the right person, nothing can tear you apart.

And what’s even more important: putting God first. When He is at the center of your marriage, there is nothing you cannot do.

And I am holding tight to that. I know the separation will be difficult. I know we will miss each other more than we know right now. But I also feel it will be eye opening for us.

I pray for strength, safety, and knowledge. Most of all, I pray for a long and happy marriage. Because I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else, and I wouldn’t want to.

New Year, New Vision

I have just come to the realization that school begins next week. Don’t take this the wrong way—I have known for sometime when the spring semester would start. In fact, I’ve had my textbooks for about 2 weeks now, and I’ve finished updating the course content online for the courses I instruct. So, no, it’s not a surprise. What I mean is it snuck up on me.

You see, this time last year, I had to say goodbye to my husband for 3 months, and school was a distraction from my emotional state. So having N home has impacted (positively) my winter break. But something else comes from this realization.

It is also my last semester of graduate school.

I know—2 years has gone by so fast! I have already begun my review of literature for my capstone project (it’s like a thesis, but it’s not a one hundred something page paper). I have already had my first meeting with my committee to go over my Prospectus. My chair has already given me a defense date (well, area): April.

I mean, how crazy is that!?

And since N will miss my graduation because of his drill, he has promised to come to my defense. But I just found out last night that their “academic” trip would be in April (if they go). My chair has already been kind enough to let me know that, since I want my husband at the defense, he will work out a way that it is not when N will be gone for military duty. This just adds one more piece to the equation. On the plus side, it will give me a solid due date for my project (I think), so I suppose that is good.

Our church does a Vision and a 21 day fast every year for the new year. I say this because part of my personal vision is to not let the things I cannot control control me. What I mean by this is: I have gotten so frustrated with my husband about his military obligations, even though I know there is nothing he can do about it. I cannot control these things, and I refuse to let the military get the better of me or my marriage.(Graduation for my M.A. may seem small to some, but it’s big to me. I do know in the long run it is nothing; I am well aware. But in the moment…)

I also know N is trying to make things better between us; we both are. But there are a lot of stressors, too. We have a lot ahead of us: I will graduate and begin my career with my master’s (!!); N is currently applying to graduate programs; he will graduate OCS and become an officer in the Army National Guard; we will be moving, and whether that is just moving apartments or moving cities all depends on where he gets accepted and where I get a job. I have had anxiety about all of this, especially since I am a big planner.

And the verse that has been put on my heart through all of those stresses is this one: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV).

In other words, I should be thankful that I even made it into a master’s program and will receive the degree I worked so hard for. I should be thankful to even have my husband in my life. I should be thankful that N has supported me this whole time, even if he couldn’t be here in person. I should rejoice for what I do have, not condemn what I don’t. I should praise the Lord in everything. I won’t lie; sometimes that is hard, especially when my emotions get the best of me. But He has never failed to provide for me and He never will.

So as N and I speak life over our vision for the new year and as we pray, I will remember God is forever faithful, and He will provide what we need when we need it. I will remind myself of this verse and know that His peace can overcome whatever I am feeling in the moment. Most importantly, I will remind myself to talk with Him before I open my mouth to my husband.

I encourage you to pray and create a vision. What do you want to work on this year? Not just a new year’s resolution, but a vision. What do you see for yourself, for your partner, for your relationship this year? What do you want to speak life into?

Be Thankful

When life gets tough, it can be difficult to find reasons to be thankful. But here’s the thing: life is rarely easy. That just means that sometimes we have to be conscious of what we are thankful for and repeat that to ourselves as a mantra, especially when we are feeling let down. So, in light of that and in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to share a few things I am very thankful for.

The first is a thing and a person: my husband and the relationship I have with him. Things around here have not been easy since he joined the National Guard. There can be a lot of frustration, confusion, and worry. And sometimes I feel like he is the one making a difference and doing something meaningful while I am stuck with another year of school. While the decision is a hard one to get over and learn to live with, it has made us take new steps in our marriage. My husband constantly reminds me that I do make a difference when I teach and that I will make a difference in the future. I just need my master’s to do it. Instead of giving up on us and just deciding I overreacted to his decision to join the Guard, he encouraged us to find someone to speak with. I am thankful that he works so hard to provide for us so I can continue my education and not have to pick up a second job. I am thankful for his kiss goodbye in the morning when he heads to work and his kiss hello when he comes home. I am thankful for his comforting embrace when I am stressed or just having a rough day with school. I am thankful for his encouragement and devotion. He challenges me to think harder and be better every day. I am thankful God allowed me to find him so early in life, allowing me to spend that much more of my life with him.

The second reason I am thankful is for such wonderful parents. Being an only child, I am a little spoiled, but they have worked so hard to provide for me, and they still help my husband and I now. They love my husband and never once doubted my feelings for him when we were dating; they knew it was only a matter of time before I would marry him. They supported me through a move out of state to college, when I changed my degree, when I got married, when I got accepted to graduate school. They have always supported my dreams and have encouraged me to go where God leads me and to listen to His plan for me. They let me know to take deep breaths when I feel like everything is caving in around me. They always let me know they love me and will always be there for me in everything they say and do.

Third, I am thankful for my Nana. My Nana, my mom’s mom, helped raise me, and I am forever grateful for the wisdom (and wonderful recipes) she has imparted to me over my 24 years. I know she loves me because, even though her and I butt heads sometimes, she is honest with me. Even in our spats, I know she loves me. Because if she didn’t, I don’t think we would have the same fights. I am blessed to have helped her mold me. She has also encouraged my husband and I on our journey, and I know she loves him, which means a lot to me. She took him in as her grandson-in-law (as she calls him), and spoils him like she always has spoiled me. She is a wonderful woman.

I am thankful for my close extended family for leading me to Christ. Without the trip to Passion, I don’t think I would ever be where I am or have gotten through my husband’s decision to join the Guard.

I am thankful to my extended family in general for raising two amazing people who turned out to be two amazing parents. You laid the foundation for my parents to raise me and have impacted me greatly.

I am thankful for my friends, old and new, for being people I can trust and be honest with. You have all showed me such different views and have given me so much to take in. I am so thankful that we can have the conversations we do and that I do not have to worry about being judged for who I am or what I believe.

More simply, I am thankful for my job because it means I have a paycheck. I am thankful for my instructors and my program because it means I have the ability to learn, improve, and change my world. I am thankful for having to clean our apartment because it means I have a place to call home. I am thankful for a church that challenges not only me but also my husband in our faith and encourages us to act.

I am thankful for so many things in my life, and these are just a few of them. Sometimes those simple things, like cleaning the apartment, are hard to be thankful for, but they always mean something. I encourage you to look for the deeper meaning in everything and see that God has given you so many wonderful opportunities to be thankful and so many things and people to be thankful for. The next time you are having a difficult day, write down one or two things you feel thankful for that day and see how it makes you feel. I bet it will improve your mood and perspective.

So, what are you thankful for?

A Year Later…

It has been almost a year since a decision was made that almost broke my marriage. Thanks be to God that it didn’t. Through this, we have become stronger and better at communicating with each other what we need. The enemy sought to destroy us, but we fought long and hard. And I guarantee that fight is not over.

He came home from basic training in March. In April, he began Officer Candidate School (OCS). To keep from going into too much detail, it has not been exactly as we anticipated, which has been irritating at times.

I still struggle with the identity aspect. I always get the impression I should identify as a military wife, but that isn’t how I identify. I have things in my life that I want to do, and things I am proud of. My husband even agrees I may identify however I choose (with the unspoken understanding that I support him of course).

The repetitive questions of “where is he stationed?”, “how long will he be gone?”, and “when will he be deployed?” are getting a little irritating also. I have to explain what he does, which I hardly understand, and I typically get blank stares. I don’t have all the answers, nor does my husband, and there seems to be some sort of assumption that all military is the same. It’s one reason I don’t identify as a military spouse, why I don’t introduce us with that first—because there are too many questions.

Regardless of my irritations, which, yes, I understand are pointless and uncontrollable, part of me thinks this decision has forced us into situations we would not normally be in to test our relationship and our faith.

I asked my husband once, not too long ago, why he chose this: did he want to feel important (yes, I was being a little facetious)? Did he feel God was calling him to it? What? And he wasn’t sure how to answer, but he told me, “I just didn’t feel I could ignore this tugging to do it.” That was good enough for me. If this is God’s will for our life, all I can do is go along and pray the entire way.

A year ago, I was constantly upset. I didn’t want to speak to him or see him. I felt betrayed. I felt he had ruined our plans. I felt he was being selfish. I felt, for all intents and purposes, that he had “gone rogue” in our relationship and was only focusing on himself.

Now, I realize I was the one being selfish. He moved to Colorado to be with me when we were in college. He was more than happy to transfer schools. He was so supportive of me applying to graduate school; he encouraged it and told me to apply to more than the one school. And through it all he never asked me for anything except my love, respect, and support. And in the time he needed it I didn’t give it. So now I try to give it every opportunity. I am far from perfect; I still have my moments. But what is important is that I try.

I have been blessed with a husband who is patient with everything I am, so I must be patient with all he is.

This experience has led me deeper into my faith. It has led us both closer to our amazing God. It has helped us to really see our blessings. It has helped us to pray and seek. Maybe that was God’s intention.

We have had to both ask for forgiveness, from God and each other. It has not been an easy year, but I am blessed that we got another year. The enemy will continue to try to use this decision to destroy us, but we will continue to fight back. And we will never stop fighting.

My Man and His Motorcycle

There’s just something sexy about a guy on a motorcycle. There, I said it. But not just any guy. My guy, my husband. (After 3 years, I still like saying that: my husband.)

I married a man who, as long as I have known him, stands by the insistence that he needs a motorcycle. Not just wants one, but absolutely needs one. And when he is riding, it isn’t hard to see why.

Even from my place on the back of the bike, with my arms wrapped securely around him, I can tell he is in his element. If ever he had a thing, motorcycles are his thing. He loves to take his turns and speed down hills, and I have learned to enjoy those things too when I ride on the back. When he shifts, and I feel the sudden jolt…I can’t help but smile. It’s fun.

He got me a motorcycle jacket, a real motorcycle jacket, for our anniversary. So, of course, today we went on a ride.

He took us to Mormon Lake, and I was struck with how beautiful the scenery was—pine trees, mountains, a vast green canvas of wetlands…

Mormon Lake

It also wasn’t even that hot, which I was thankful for especially since I had on the jacket, jeans, and boots. I hardly paid attention to where he was going; I just looked around me at the trees and the lake and enjoyed the breeze.

And my husband was in his element the whole time. All smiles.

Maybe that’s why I find him on his motorcycle so attractive—because I know that is his thing. I know that is when he is happiest, and it shows every time. Maybe it’s because, even though I am bare to the wind and road, I feel safe when I am on the bike with him because I know I can trust him. Maybe it’s that trust, that willingness to let my controlling nature go, that I find so appealing.

Today was beautiful in many ways. But mostly because I got to spend it, carefree, with my motorcycle-obsessed man.

Quietly Celebrating Three Years

The dress is beautiful—pure white, small beading at the top, buttons (to hide the zipper) going down the back. As I am assisted into the gown, I look down at myself, and I can feel the tears begin to well in my eyes. My mother hands me a tissue. I feel beautiful, like a princess.

I pin the flower to my dad’s tuxedo. My friends, he, and myself pile into the car to take me to the beginning of my future.

I link my right arm through my dad’s left, and he grips my hand tightly. He makes a joke. I chuckle. I’m focused. He stands with me, still gripping my hand, teary-eyed: “Her mother and I.”

“Love is patient, love is kind…Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13. “You may now kiss the bride.”

And suddenly, too quickly, the ceremony ends, and I am holding hands with the man who is now my husband. 

Three years ago today I exchanged vows with my husband. We smiled at each other through the chilly air and the wind in Point Arena, California. We poured our unity sand. We promised love, respect, patience, and to not go it alone. For better or for worse.

The past year has seen us at our worst, but it has also seen us at our best. It has tested our patience, and it may have even tested our vows. But love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8.

It’s tattooed on my back, between my shoulder blades. It does not only represent the love we have for each other, but the love Christ has for us. It’s a reminder: no matter what, He is with us.

And I have needed that reminder a lot.

Even through the hard times, I would not want to go through this life or experience this journey with anyone besides the man I married. I thank him for his patience with me, especially when I know it’s difficult to be patient with me, and for his unfailing love for me. I respect him for all he does, and I know he does it for us. Even if we do not always agree on the best course of action, I know that our family, our future, and our stability are on his mind.

Today we celebrate our anniversary. He works during the day, but I am cooking our anniversary dinner. It is the first time we have not gone out to celebrate, but I am actually really excited to create dinner on my own and to have a quiet celebration at home.

I am blessed to have been able to start my married life with him so soon. I am always awed by the wonderful man of God he is. I am blessed for the life we get to live together.

Happy anniversary, darling.

The Changing of Last Names

Lately I feel I have come across a lot of articles about women’s struggles with changing their last name when they get married. Most of what I have seen have been women who didn’t want to change it and are justifying why they didn’t want to, and women who did and are explaining why they regret doing so. I have not seen anyone defending why they did change their name. I don’t understand why no one is defending the other side, or why we (I feel) are making it a “feminist issue.”

I changed my last name.

I am almost 24, female (duh), and would classify myself as a feminist. Not a bra-burning, man-hating feminist, but I believe in equality for men and women. I believe that women have come a long way in history. But I also believe that not everything is a feminist agenda.

I was young when I got married. My husband proposed just days before my 20th birthday (which my mother, after a long chat, quickly got over), and we were married just two months before my 21st birthday. You do the math; we have been married almost three years (actually, it will be 3 years on Tuesday!). Here’s the thing: I never questioned whether I should change my last name.

Actually, throughout the entire planning process, I was looking forward to going down to the DMV, to social security, and showing off my brand new marriage license that had my new last name on it. And I was actually upset that this name change could not be reflected in time for our honeymoon for which we needed passports (because, when I got my passport, we had not yet married, so it had my maiden name on it).

Yes, I am a little traditional in some senses. Some in my field have insinuated I am not feminist because I don’t mind the “Mr.” coming first in “Mr. and Mrs.” on a letter, because I changed my last name. They have attempted to explain my own feelings to me: that I accept this notion simply because I am familiar with a patriarchal society and therefore I go along with giving up my identity for a man. That is not the case with me.

My husband did not make me change my last name, though he did express his desire that I do and that he might feel hurt if I did not. Why would I want to hurt my husband so early in our marriage and with something he would be constantly reminded of? I did not have a long, historic relationship with my last name; I was not really attached to it.

I am also Christian, which played a role in my feelings about marriage and changing my name. I felt it would be disrespectful of me to not change my last name. I was committing myself to him for the rest of my life, so I felt I should commit all of me—including my last name. After all, what is so special about a name? It does not make you who you are—you choose who you are.

It is difficult to explain why I chose to change my name because it just felt right to me. I chose to be part of another family. For me, changing my last name is a way to create my own legacy, alongside my husband. Not a day goes by that I regret changing my last name. In fact, there’s a sense of pride when my students call me “Mrs.” Especially since my husband is in the military now, it makes things a lot easier.

So, women: If you’re married did you change your last name? Why or why not? If you’re not married, do you think you will change your last name?

And men: How do you feel about your wife (or future wife) changing her last name (or not)?

Is a last name really that big of a deal? Should it really be a “conversation” that we have, over whether women should change their name or not? Does a personal choice, related to feelings and beliefs, really need to be a feminist issue?

Killing My Own Spiders

My husband has left for his two week long training. Yes, I miss him already. Yes, it’s been weird to be on my own all day again. And I have realized that two weeks is going to be easier than the three months we were separated, but that it is still different than the three days he is gone for drill every month. It is somewhere in between I think. But do you know what might be the worst part about being on my own?

Killing my own spiders.

Yes. I despise spiders. I’m afraid of them.

I was laying on the floor reading the letters I got from my husband while he was at basic training and reminding myself of some Bible verses when I saw our playful male cat trying to play with my husband’s sneaker that was in the middle of the floor. I thought he was just playing with the shoelaces, but then he moved the shoe, and…out crawled a big black spider!

To me, this spider was huge. Especially because my face was inches from the floor! But it just stayed there. It was almost like it was staring at the cat and me.

I emitted a small squeak and groan and crushed it with a piece of paper I had.

See, when my husband is home, I squeal, and his instant reaction is to look at me and say, “where is it?” Because he knows. I don’t do bugs, but I especially don’t do spiders. They just look terrifying. He actually joked the other day about it, asking me, “do you think it’s going to just jump on you?” Yes, yes I do.

So he kills them while I stand back and tell him thank you.

But on my own, I have to kill the spiders I’d otherwise call him in for. I hope I don’t encounter anymore the next few weeks.