Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Does it Mean to Become "One?"

Oneness in marriage is the merger of body, soul, and spirit.

One of the greatest gifts and challenges Brandon and I have recognized since our marriage is the biblical direction to become "one" as husband and wife.

True unity requires one to choose to put the well being of another first - and as a Christian, is the ultimately depiction of God’s love and a true display of what it means to be a believer - sacrificial love.

We have quickly learned that such unity can only be achieved when our love and obedience to the Lord is at the core. When we don’t focus on our faith and the purpose behind our marriage, it is too easy to get caught up in our stubborn ways and selfishness.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." 
Psalm 127:1

At our wedding ceremony, one of the ways our pastor described oneness was rejoicing and mourning with one another. When your spouse rejoices - you rejoice with them. Likewise, when your spouse is in despair, you are alongside them.

How true this has been for us already! Most recently we’ve felt this as we mourned the loss of our friend Josiah. I truly have never seen my husband in so much pain - first he needed me to mourn with him, and then he needed me for support, to encourage him to travel out to MN for Josiah’s final hours, to support him in making financial decisions regarding funeral and travel costs, and to fly out to be with him for the funeral. In the same way, when some family drama rose up after our wedding and I was being targeted, Brandon was quick to make it clear that it was no longer "me" and "him" but "us."

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has not one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

In order for 2 to become 1, they cannot cleave to anyone else. This might be easy if you were detached from your family, but I am very close to my parents. For the last 25 years they have been the individuals I most loved, trusted, and confided in. They were my primary source of support and direction and they were the first people I turned to for guidance. I love my relationship with my parents, but I knew it had to change after I became a Mrs.

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 2:24

The process has been slow and somewhat difficult. It started with practical things - not talking to them everyday, making sure I sought my husband’s opinion first (rather than my parents), and learning to confide in Brandon at a deeper level. More noticeable changes have come as Brandon and I have had to make some of our first major decisions on our own - decisions that my parents don’t necessarily agree with. They are still supportive, but they would have done things differently. But while my parents have spent 25 years considering what is in my best interest, they also respect that Brandon and I now have to decide what is best for us. 

We are no longer individual entities.

"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
Colossians 3:14

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Life in Numbers

1 - broken bone (which conveniently happened to be my right arm)

5 - times I’ve been a bridesmaid 

2 - bathrooms in our apartment

22 - miles I drive one way to work

11 - size shoe I wear

6 - littles who’ve made me an aunt (1 still in utero)

5 - trips to Minnesota in the last year

3 - pillows I sleep with each night (plus 1 husband)

71 - inches tall

100 - days married to my dream man

20 - years spent in school

10 - average number of miles I run per week

5 - car accidents I’ve been in (not all of them were my fault...)

4 - season of Gilmore Girls Brandon and I are on

600,000+ - number of times people have already mispronounced/misspelled my new last name already

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Minnesota Musings

[one] I have a love/hate relationship with airports. I love to travel, but I hate to fly. Not because of any fear of flying, but because of the germs, waiting, inconvenience, uncomfortable chairs, etc. This trip I camped out at some deserted gates, saw my first indoor pet restroom, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when B was given the last standby seat on the way home…which also turned out to be the seat next to me!

[two] This trip was full of some sweet babies. Babies who are growing much to fast! Our friends daughter Aftyn enthralled Brandon and I one night when she climbed up between us on the couch and belted out “Let It Go” – complete with hand motions.

Henry, Hank, Henry-O, Hank the Tank

Just riding the stuffed horse together.

Aftyn and Henry just chillin together

Brandon is still working on getting over his baby-holding fears...Henry is a pretty "solid" kid, so he felt a little more comfortable :)

[three] We have some amazing friends. It was pretty amazing to see everyone who was able to fly in for the funeral and support Brooke and Jonah. We spent some really special time with a group of about 20 friends on Saturday night, swapping stories about Josiah, sharing some tears, and comforting Brooke. Oh how I wish we all lived in the same state!

Love and miss these girls so much!

[four] My mother-in-law is always sure to have a bag or two of Dove chocolate floating around her kitchen. This time she have this amazing mint chocolate – seriously to die for. Like mint chocolate chip ice cream in your mouth. Perfection.

[five] The funeral was beautiful. Bagpipes for Josiah’s Scottish heritage, a slideshow set to a recording of him singing “Here Comes the Sun,” and the most touching eulogy given by my husband.

[six] To end our weekend with a little excitement, we literally spent 15+ minutes searching for the gas cover button in our rental car. The handbook contained no mention of it and we were literally stumped until I stumbled on it while crawling around on the floor.

Sneaky little button...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Celebration of Life

On Tuesday I knew of 3 new little lives who made it into the world - on Wednesday I knew of 2 sweet souls who left it.

My facebook homepage has seemed like the definition of irony, with nearly half the posts dedicated to welcoming the new little ones and sending congratulations and well wishes to their parents, and the other half mourning the loss of those seemingly taken far too soon.

Brandon, Jonah, and Josiah - Just 3 months ago at our wedding

On Wednesday afternoon, our dear friend Josiah was welcomed into the arms of Jesus.
I’ve never lost a close friend before. Last year an acquaintance passed, and nearly 2 years ago we said goodbye to my elderly grandparents, but I’ve never lost someone this close to my age who I cared so much about. There is such comfort in knowing that Josiah was a believer and that he is now free from the pain he has suffered from for so long, but when I think about the wife and young son he left behind, my heart just breaks.

In 2006

We got the call on Tuesday night that things were coming to an end. Josiah was diagnosed with cancer a decade ago and although he went into remission a few years back that last year has been extremly hard. Brandon and I were ecstatic that he was well enough to travel to Michigan in January and be part of our wedding. Shortly after the wedding his medications started causing more harm than help and although he was technically declared cancer free, pnemonia and other lung infections kept him in the hospital.

Brandon and I cried and prayed with Brooke, Josiah’s wife, on the phone Tuesday night and then Brandon said his goodbyes to Josiah. I felt hopeless as I watched my husband try and stay strong while he told one of his oldest and dearest friends how much he loved him.
On Wednesday morning I dropped Brandon off at the airport to head for Minnesota. We had no clue whether or not he would make it in time to spend a few last moments with Josiah, but we knew he needed to try and to be there for Brooke and Jonah. Amazingly he made it and was able to spend a few hours with Brooke, Josiah, and 2 other close friends before Josiah passed. Brooke told Brandon that she kept telling Josiah throughout the night that Brandon was on his way - that he had to hold on just a little bit longer.

20-year-olds at Josiah's wedding - yes they wore kilts!

I know this is how life works - we celebrate birth, mourn death, and try and move on. But the cycle just seems so off when someone dies young. You still try and celebrate their life, but you can’t help asking why - why was it his time? Why now, when he has a young son who needs him, a wife that loves him, and so much more life to live?

Brooke and Josiah have been such an example to Brandon and I of what vows truly look like when you commit to stay together "In sickness and in health."

Brandon said yesterday - "If he was going to die from the cancer, why didn’t just God take him the first round he fought it? Why did he have to suffer for so many years?"
It’s a hard question, but then we realized something.

Because if Josiah hadn’t been able to experience that period of remission, Jonah wouldn’t be here.

And so the cycle of life continues.

We miss you already Josiah.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to Make the Most (and Enjoy) Out of Your Engagement

April 5, 2013

A year ago today B asked me to be his WIFE! Not only was it one of the best days of my life, but it was also the beginning of our lives together.

I had heard quite a few comments about the stress that can come with the engagement period - decisions, deadlines, opinions, etc. It is obviously understandable how there can be some finicky moments as you work towards melding 2 lives together.

But it doesn't have to be stressful! Brandon and I both agree that we really enjoyed the 9 months we were engaged and the wedding planning process. While we still had some ups and downs we moved through them fairly easily.

Here are some of the lessons I learned....

1. Length. Regardless of how smooth your engagement can be, for the life of me I cannot understand how couples can have such lengthy engagements! B and I both agreed that 9 months was even too long! But, with Brandon needing to relocate to Michigan, and my studying and taking the Bar, it just didn't seem realistic that we would be able to get everything done in time if we got married any earlier. That said, I would encourage you not to have an extensive engagement. If you are really ready to get married, the waiting is tough! We found ourselves ready to live together, be together, and start our lives together! On the other hand, my best friend only had a 4 month engagement and she did say that was difficult for wedding planning and finding a venue that was available.

2. Don't let wedding planning consume you. Your wedding is one day. Yes there are decisions that need to be made and planning that needs to be done, but be careful not to become bridezilla. It's a party, and being stressed, agitated, and short-tempered for months before is not going to have a positive effect on those you hold dear. I know you've been dreaming of this day your whole life, but remember that your groom probably hasn't, and that those around you have important life events happening as well!

3. Engage your groom. Find ways to get your groom excited about the wedding planning! If he is interested, find jobs he would enjoy, if he'd rather you take the reigns, keep him up to date on things - especially aspects that are important to him. Brandon loves music so he took care of finding a DJ and tracking down lighting and transportation. He also loved the food tastings and took care of planning the honeymoon! 

4. Marriage Counseling. We both really enjoyed our time in marriage counseling. We met for several weeks with one of my pastors and his wife. They are a couple about a decade older than us whose marriage we really admire. Not only were they a great source of encouragement, but they also challenged us and got us really talking about our goals and marriage ideals. Marriage counseling was also a great reminder to help keep us focused on the fact that the wedding is only the beginning....the marriage and lifelong commitment we were entering into is what really mattered.

5. Be organized. There are some great wedding books/magazines/websites out there that provide timelines and checklists. I found these to be really helpful. Not that I exactly followed them to a tee, but they helped me make sure I was leaving enough time to get things done, and getting things done on time. They also helped me remember tasks I forgot about - i.e. getting escort cards made, finding a videographer, etc. I also kept a running checklist of all of the dates payments needed to/had been made and a spreadsheet on what I was spending (so I knew I was staying on budget).

Picking out our reception hall. Because B was still living in MN during most of our engagement, when he did come into town being organized was key! I would have a list of what we needed to do/things I wanted his opinion on so wedding planning was accomplished, but didn't consume our time together.

6. Have some wedding free time. This goes along with not letting your wedding planning consume you, but remember, those around you, including your fiance and family, are likely not as into wedding planning as you are :) Talk about other things, do other things, care about other people! Remember, you need a break from wedding planning to! I can guarantee keeping this tip in mind will help keep you and those around you sane!

7. Relax. Everything might not happen as you had dreamed, but your day will still be perfect. Bridesmaid dress shopping stressed me out beyond belief, but we found on in the end, and even though the dress came in differently and several of the girls were falling out of it in the weeks leading up to the wedding, we managed to find seamstresses who creatively altered and pinned everything in place. Yes my parents house flooded and we lived in hotels for 2 weeks and then a construction mess for the 2 months leading up to the wedding - but all of the destroyed wedding presents and projects were able to be replaced. Even though we had a blizzard the week before and the melted snow caused our cocktail hour location to flood, we were able to move to another, better location. Even though there were some family upsets and last minute guest cancellations - I still married the man of my dreams :)

Taking engagement pictures was so much fun!

8. Enjoy the process. Have fun with this season of life! While Brandon and I were very ready to get married, there were some special moments during those 9 months I will always treasure. Doing wedding projects together, going to pre-marrital counseling, bachelor/bachelorette parties with friends, planning a ceremony to reflect our love for Christ, and spending precious one-on-one time with our family. Treasure the engagement period for what it is - don't just wish it away!

"Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning." - Anonymous

Happy Engagement!