Happy Birthday! I am so grateful to be your wife and watch you grow into someone who is becoming more like Christ. I am so grateful for the beating of your heart that pulses life into your body — and for all the times I snuggled close and just listened to it. I am so grateful for the days that have added up to another full year of life for you. 29 years! Woo! That is OLD. You are a wonderful gift to me.
Also? I know you aren’t perfect. You aren’t a perfect son, or brother or friend or husband. In your past you have said and done mean things that hurt people, you have thought bad thoughts and acted selfishly. You have been driven by insecurity, motivated by fear and pride, and consumed by the darkness of your own sin. (If you’re anxious for me to reach my point, I promise it’s coming!)
I guess I wanted to remind you of all of those things, of your own imperfections, so you can know that even though I know about them… gosh I love you times a million. I haven’t been around for all of your mistakes but after almost 6 years of marriage, I’ve been around for some of them. When it comes right down to it: I’ve seen you at your worst and ugliest and you know that. You know that because you’ve seen me in the exact same places – ugly, dark, and selfish places. Yet every morning when we wake up to tackle a new day, I look over at you and whisper a thanks to God that He has given me you.
You and all of your OCD cleaning techniques. You and all of your spreadsheets (heaven help me). You and all of your terrible jokes. You and your ability to get away with everything because of your stupid mischievous grin. (related: I’m gonna leave all the disciplining of our son to you ok?)
When I think about our friendship over the past several years, I don’t quite know how to sum it up. You don’t complete me because we’re all created in the image of God and we each have all we need by the grace of God through Jesus — with or without a spouse. You don’t complete me, but you’re slowly becoming a part of me. In some ways, the fingerprints of your love and influence in my life show up in quite obvious ways — I have trained for two half-marathons and successfully completed one! The chances of that happening without your
incessant guilt trips accountability are slim to none. I’ve started using phrases and adopting some of your mannerisms; which, I’ll be honest – is creepy. Also, I haven’t turned into a bowl of ice cream! When left to my own devices, that would have probably happened within one year of graduating college. And, most obviously and recently — I’m carrying our first child! So, I mean. There’s that.
But your influence in my life goes beyond just the tangible, physical things. You inspire me by the way you live and work. You have incredible insight into the world around you and the people in it. You see needs and you solve problems and you pray for wisdom and you remind me of how important it is to have integrity, take initiative, and love people even when it’s awkward and messy. Because, most of the time, intentionally loving people IS kind of awkward.
Sometimes when we’re just kind of humming along in life, one ordinary day after another, I’ll come home to you sitting on the patio or listening to music on the couch. I’ll sit down next to you, hold your hand as our stupid cat jumps into my lap and you remind me for the millionth time, “We live like kings. God has given us way beyond what we could ask or imagine.” I know you aren’t just talking about stuff. You’re talking about our lives — the people in them, the gifts we get to share, the memories we cherish, the hard moments that have shaped us, the promises He has made to us that we always underestimate. I love when you slow down and give thanks. It never fails to teach me and challenge me.
When God gave me you, it HAS been more than I ever
bargained for asked or imagined. As you begin living your 30th year of life, as we prepare for the arrival of our son, as we continue to plan and dream about the future, I will be right next to you. We move forward together, we fall backwards together, we mess up together, we forgive together, we cry together and sing together and, by the grace of God, we die together.
Happy birthday, valentine. And thank you. Thank you for loving me.
We moved about a week ago and we love our new place. It’s simple, beautiful, manageable and we have all the honeymoon-feels about it. Until the water heater broke two days after we moved in (but I digress). Before we started the process of looking for a place to buy, we came up with a motto that we’ve had to remind ourselves of during these past days of living in an unpacked, somewhat hazardous environment: We can make any house a home.
I’m going to paint the current status of our home for you — we don’t have any seating in our living room. Nada. The brown fluffy monstrosity from our other place simply refused to enter despite the men’s brave efforts so it took a long walk off a short cliff (or stairwell, as it were). RIP brown couch. Recently, John was able to make the second bedroom (affectionately nicknamed the dungeon) an actual livable space where we could navigate around without tripping over a chest of drawers, pillows, or a craft cart the size of a small child (whose IS that by the way? geez!). Yet our closets are still a disaster, brimming with things that are in all the wrong places.
Sigh. Let me explain to you where my strengths lie when it comes to the unpacking process, ok? — THE FUN STUFF. By fun stuff I mean the pictures and knick knacks and fluffy feel-good things that go on the walls and shelves. This is also known as – THE LAST THINGS WE WILL UNPACK. I’m not sure if this is a strength of mine or really just something I’d rather be doing. Like dessert. Dessert is a HUGE strength of mine. I could dessert all day every day. Same way I feel about decorating the walls.
An interesting caveat to unpacking all the fun things this time around is I know I won’t be decorating with all of the picture frames I had used in our previous home. The reason is because in general, John’s mind is just more organized than mine (understatement of the year) and he’s requesting more open and clean space on the walls. Looking at the walls now, I have to admit — it does feel more
sterile boring open with less stuff on them. Yet my decorating style is like walking by a wall resembling an advertisement for Hobby Lobby that is displaying every cute picture frame and wall accessory it’s ever sold… ever. On one wall.
Let me clarify – John has always graciously and lovingly encouraged me in my home-making skills. He tells me how much he loves coming home and how relaxing it is etc. So don’t get it all wrong when I tell you our decorating styles are not always simpatico. It’s totally hereditary. My mom decorates beautifully and bountifully and I picked up her gusto for knick-knackery. My mother-in-law decorates beautifully and minimally which is also sweet, and inviting.
John and I grew up in different worlds and now that we actually own a place for the first time, we’ll inevitably need to compromise on stuff. Despite our best efforts, compromise quickly translates into frequent grumbles, snorts, huffs, deep sighs, and apologies because we’re imperfect people with a measurable amount of patience and grace and we both so desperately want to have this place all put together.
Yet at the end of the day, it’s not about pictures on the wall or where we put the couch, or what kind of rug we buy. It’s about who I’m making a home with. I want to do life with him. For all of the ways he challenges me and aggravates me, and all the ways I annoy him and snarl at him, this house won’t mean a thing if we don’t agree to keep loving and liking each other.
I’m guessing the wall decor process is going to happen sometime early in the New Year so my first New Years Resolution is to let the little things go. I’m not abandoning my opinion all together, make no mistake! But I’m willing to make it work because it’s dumb to get our panties in a wad about picture frames when we could be snuggling on our imaginary couch instead. 🙂
We like being homeowners, but we love being married. No amount of picture frames or knick knacks (or lack thereof) are going to shift those priorities. When we make a home we wanna make it right – built on love, decorated in compromise, and enjoyed by all who enter it.
Any house a home, y’all. That’s how we roll.
Five years. Fünf jahre! Fünf! Can you believe it? (I just like saying “Fünf” because it’s such a funny German word.)
Five years I have run alongside of you. Five years of inside jokes, and late night drives and sabbath day pancakes. As with every passing year, I’ve learned more about you — appreciating new things and enduring others (gotta keep it real, right?– nobody’s perfect) Speaking of not being perfect, remember how I lost my job in October? Yeah. That was great. Our first taste of the “for worse” part of our wedding vows. We didn’t exactly do it perfectly but by God’s grace, we came out of it clinging to God and cheering each other on.
I’ll tell you what I remember most about this past year: you were there. Always. You didn’t give up on me, even when you didn’t understand my emotional rants or reclusive silences at the dinner table. You need to know that you are stronger than you realize. You aren’t perfect and neither am I and this past year has been our banner year for reminding us of that. But this year has only strengthened my resolve to encourage, support, push, and enjoy you more.
When I came home for three months straight, reeking of coffee shops and unemployment, you always came home later after working 13 hour days. I watched you work day after day after day and sometimes I would just cry in the car thinking about it. You worked SO hard. I felt SO ashamed. Life had become some cruel disappointment. This past year I watched you put your head down and work yourself almost to death. Then I saw you collapse at Jesus’s feet in surrender and say, “I can’t do it.” You sought help, and recovered hope. Your humility in the middle of this storm gave me strength and perspective. Without knowing it, you brought me back to the God I had been secretly hating for weeks. Thank you. Thank you for bringing me back.
Yet through all the hectic months of our life, you still managed to find time for date night. You still picked up flowers at the store. The bouquets were always so unique and I thought I might never let go of you when you told me you had them specially arranged by the lady behind the counter. I just pictured you stooped over all the flowers with your brows furrowed as you picked out just the right ones. And I hugged you tighter because I don’t understand your care for me sometimes.
The new calendar year brought me a new job, by God’s gracious hand. It wasn’t what either of us expected but after a chorus of “We’ve chosen another candidate” and a resounding reprise of absolute silence, we were thankful. So I pranced around the house in a swimsuit, preparing to teach kids an activity I could barely do myself and we laughed at the new shade of ridiculous our lives just adopted. The paycheck was such a blessing, the schedule was a bear. We were like ships in the night for awhile. Still painfully, blessedly aware that we couldn’t do it apart from God. We still needed Him to keep us together, working as a team, learning as a family. We shared some hard words and sat in heavy silences. We missed seeing each other and stupidly blamed each other for it. Our logic was flawless, “I miss you. But I’m too exhausted to connect with you. But you haven’t connected with ME in a while either. Therefore, you must not miss me. Therefore, you’re a jerk.” Brilliant, eh? You live and learn in married life I guess. Sorry for being such a shmuck sometimes.
I’ve been thinking about our marriage over the past few weeks leading up to our 5 year anniversary. And I’ve decided that I like the sound of being married for 5 years. It seems like such a magnanimous accomplishment. Like we should get some kind of award for being such a mature and wise couple. Being married for 5 years gives us the right to look down our noses at those rascally “newlyweds” and tut-tut over all the things we learned “back in the day”… right? Because I’m all over that. But what I like more than just the sound of being married for 5 years is the reality that I’ve shared it with you. Somehow, in the midst of the chaos and shattered plans and long days… we’ve made a life together. And I treasure it.
I love you. I love the way you have taken care of me by taking care of your walk with God. I love sharing this life with you while offering my own snarky and completely useless commentary on it. I love laughing
at with you. I love catching your eye and making you smile over a moment that nobody else could understand or appreciate. I love hearing you pray. Unless I’m really hungry… then I kind of struggle. I love hearing you dream out loud and chiming in with my own happy versions of our future and heaven and how great God is. I love being your bride. What a year we’ve had! What a privilege to have lived it alongside of you.
Here’s to the adventures we shared and the mistakes we made and the grace that makes it all possible.
And here’s to you, babe.
This is the second of the three-part shout-out to my favorite men, feel free to check out part 1 if you wanna read about my fantabulous father.
Today, it’s all about the hubster. I never call him the hubster, it just sounded cool so I’m going with it.
Last week I posted about our four year wedding anniversary (yay!) but that post was more a recap of married life than a smooshy-googly wuvvy-dovey post about how much I love my super machismo studmuffin. Don’t worry though, this post will deliver enough happy feelings to make the Care Bears squirm. Get excited!
Man #2: Husband
We’re different, you and I. That may be one of the greatest understatements in the history of mankind. You see the future as something to approach cautiously, with a plan in hand while I tend to barrel into the future, tossing up prayers and making it up as I go. My categories of cars are still: super-fancy, fancy, normal and boring and they still have everything to do with how a car looks and absolutely nothing to do with how it drives. You’re still holding onto the idea that there’s such a thing as “too much dessert” and it still makes me chuckle and shake my head. Yet the longer we’ve been together, the more I realize how very good it is that I married you.
This post is a tiny snapshot into how much I appreciate you. I know how much you love it (read:awkwardly smile and wish I didn’t have a Facebook account) when I make a big deal about you so I’ll try and keep this relatively bearable.
I’ll also add this disclaimer: I DID NOT MARRY A PERFECT MAN. HIS FARTS STILL SMELL AND HE HAS JUST AS MANY ISSUES AS THE NEXT GUY. (Did you just read that like I was shouting at you? Because I kinda did.)
That being said:
Thank you for holding my hand in church, and for giving me great big hugs when I come home every day. Thank you for getting me the most precocious and ridiculous cat to have ever existed as a Christmas present, and for not rubbing it in that she likes you best (most of the time). Thank you for eating the food I somehow managed to fling together, for FOUR years running! I think that ranks you among the most profoundly courageous of men. Thank you for treating me with care and consideration when I’m hurting. Thank you for being a safe place. Thank you for telling me how much you like my squawking, hooting whistle-snort of a laugh. And thanks for telling me that you think I’m funny. 🙂
Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for praying with me. Thank you for looking at my scrapbooks and taking the time to re-live sweet moments with me. Thank you for caring enough to listen to my dreams and challenging me to walk in them. Thank you for believing that I can change the world and for showing me the Scriptures and spreadsheets to prove it. 😉
You are one of the most odd, passionate, gentle, sincere and purposeful individuals I have ever met.
I am so very honored to be your one and only.
If our marriage was a book, it’d be four chapters long today. 🙂
Here are excerpts from the ever-expanding epic (that I’m not actually writing):
“Married Life: Lessons Learned by the Lavoies”
Chapter One: Community – Get some.
Our first year of marriage was pretty darn awesome. I laughed at John’s fastidious quirks and habits and provided ample entertainment by running into door frames and waking myself up with my own snores. It was evident we were embarking on the adventure of a lifetime and we soaked in every minute.
The difference-maker in this year was the people around us. We had an incredible community of friends and family who were cheering for us and loved us both. Many couples make the mistake of adopting an isolationist mindset when they first get married — “It’s all about US now.” Which is an easy trap to fall into because you’re trying to figure out how to set your own boundaries, make your own decisions as a couple etc. But it’s marital suicide. The people who made our first year of marriage great were the ones who asked us how we were doing as a couple or how they could pray for us. The ones who took us out on girls nights or guys nights, who weren’t weirded out when we admitted we had problems to work through and pushed (sometimes shoved) us closer to Jesus.
Find friends who know and love both of you and can speak into your lives when you need direction, encouragement, and prayer.
Chapter Two: Change – Expect it. Better yet, embrace it.
Our second year of marriage brought change. A LOT of it. I graduated from college, two weeks later we moved from VA to TX, one week later we traveled to Haiti for a 3 week mission trip, returned to an apartment full of unpacked boxes and I began my job hunt while he began learning the Greek alphabet in preparation for his first on-campus seminary semester. Also, we had two friends in TX. Wonderful people! But not exactly the equivalent of a church home or network of community that we desperately needed (see Chapter 1).
As you can imagine, we communicated perfectly, met each others expectations flawlessly and practically skipped into the bedroom every night!
Year two for us was the proverbial “Year One” crash-course that we had missed out on earlier. It was hard.
In my zeal (read:panic) to dive head-first into this new normal of working while John went to seminary, I burned John to the ground. I just wore. him. out. I didn’t want him to get a job because it was MY job to bring home the bacon while he focused solely on and ALWAYS on school. Without realizing it, I not only let him drown in syllabi, flashcards, and commentaries, I was holding his head under the water.
He sunk into depression. I became angry and scared that he wasn’t charging into seminary and tackling every assignment with gusto. “That’s why we’re here in the first place, right?!” But he’s not a scholar, he’s a shepherd. And shepherds need to be shepherding
even when especially when they’re surrounded by a lot of scholars.
After a few weeks of counseling, John was aptly diagnosed with “spiritual constipation.” In short, he had gone from a hands-on life of campus ministry that was full of discipleship, evangelism, and staff meetings … to a life of exegesis papers and deadlines. He desperately needed an outlet to be a shepherd again. Once he got a part-time job tutoring college students and began discipling some guys he slowly rose above the tidal wave of our unrealistic expectations. We both began to settle down and take our new life one day at a time – finding a church home, meeting new friends, and making new memories together.
Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, just give yourself (and your spouse) the grace and the space to adapt to it.
Chapter Three: Common interest – find it, keep it, cultivate it.
When John and I were dating/engaged we went on tons of fun dates and enjoyed looking googly-eyed at each other and admiring how awesome we were. It was fabulous. Unfortunately, we didn’t prioritize finding some mutual hobby that we could do together as a couple. Once we got married, we quickly realized I was far from becoming a car enthusiast and John’s idea of scrapbooking was dropping jpegs into a folder on his computer and occasionally clicking through them (UNacceptable).
We dutifully started trying each other’s hobbies to see if we could find some common interest but it usually just led to frustration and disappointment. We enjoyed watching TV shows on Netflix for a time but felt like we were getting to know the characters on Frasier better than each other. Finally, after much prayer we landed on something: running*.
Running had never been a favorite pastime of mine because, as the license plate frame on my old car quipped “I’d rather be dancing!” But I was not about to slap a leotard on my black-belt husband and tell him to catch me as my tutu’ed self leapt into his arms. Not happening. (But great visual, right?)
Instead, we both embraced this new hobby and all that came with it: icing our knees with bags of frozen veggies, sharing a huge smoothie after long runs, instagramming our running dates (exclusively Rachel), researching how we could do it better (exclusively John), and ultimately running in races together.
Running with John has been one of the key contributing factors to the deepening of our friendship. It reminds me that he and I are on the same team. Not only while we run but while tackling the day-in, day-out crazy of life.
*John has already hinted that our knees may not be able to keep up this hobby indefinitely and that we should try bike-riding instead. But I’m banking on our next mutual interest to be something I’m actually good at — like ice cream eating competitions or bargain shopping. *fingers crossed*
A common interest or hobby is worth having so be intentional about finding it and once you’ve got it — run with it! (Pun is 100% intended)
Year Four: Conflict happens! LET IT.
I despise conflict and am an expert at avoiding it. The moment I see it coming, I run in the other direction which almost always leads to more conflict. John doesn’t like conflict either but he sees the very real danger in leaving it unresolved. When left unresolved, conflict festers in the heart and leads to increasing feelings of bitterness and anger. It’s not pretty.
But, it happens. Conflict happens because there is no way two people will always agree on every little thing, and certainly not on every BIG thing. John and I have said hurtful words and kept hurtful silence more times than I can number. We have both left the room in frustration, slammed doors, cried into pillows… the works.
Earlier on it was primarily John who would say, “Rachel, what’s wrong?” But in this last year of marriage I have realized how selfish I’ve been in leaving it up to him to always approach me when there’s an issue. When I bury my emotions I’m not helping either of us. It’s been tough for me to say “I’m angry. I’m hurt. You’re making me feel X-Y-Z” because the people – pleaser in me is always saying, “Really, Rachel? Do you really want to turn this into a problem? Can’t you just let it go?” But when I “let it go” it doesn’t disappear. It just buries itself deeper into my already seething mind and heart and then eventually erupts into this hot, roiling, mess of emotions that takes twice as long to work through and often cuts twice as deep.
The greatest aspect I’ve discovered about conflict is that you can actually get on the other side of it and still be friends! In fact, you can be better friends! It’s amazing. Despite my ridiculous fears that conflict will destroy our relationship, the exact opposite has happened. It builds, unites (eventually…), and strengthens us as a couple.
When you encounter conflict, work through it rather than around it.
Four years later and what I can say about our marriage is that it’s different than it was. It requires harder work and produces sweeter dividends than I had ever anticipated. Each chapter has it’s own unique flavor of lessons learned and we are most definitely in a better place than where we started.