For the Broken Bells

hanging_jingle_bellsI love this time of year! All the feel-good jingles and the festive sleigh bell jangles. Christmas is magical in so many ways! As each year has passed, Christmas is still beautiful and fun but the world around me has sort of lost it’s soft innocence I had enjoyed as a little girl. Back in the day where my biggest concern was getting to the JCPenney gift catalog before my sister did so I could mark all the stuff I wanted before her, I didn’t know about things like loss or grief or pain or sorrow.

There are days where I miss that innocence. Where I wish I could close my eyes and see the world with all of the naiveté of a 6-year-old. Where people didn’t hurt people so badly or where hard decisions weren’t weighing on my mind or relationships weren’t shattering and depression wasn’t suffocating and grief wasn’t so ruthless and final.

This world and every (every) person in it are messed up on so many levels and for all of the Christmas caroling and jingle belling that swirls around us, we just can’t fix it. So I sit in my car and listen to the lyrics of “O Holy Night” and beg the Lord to return, to break visible chains of bondage because sometimes it’s hard to care about the invisible ones. To stop oppression in it’s tracks and display his power by silencing all the violence. I praise Him for thrilling our souls with a hope that stays and for entering a world that was pining in it’s own desperate, depraved chaos. I ask Him for wisdom for His church because while the world certainly needs His law of love and gospel of peace, His church needs it too.

I could probably name a dozen reasons off the top of my head why I should feel bitter, angry, and confused right now. Some of the reasons are personal, some national, and others global. I have my list of “How do you explain this” circumstances that I have wielded in anger as I marched up to the throne of grace, demanding explanations.

I know that believing is hard, friends. I know that if you’re hurting right now then you probably don’t feel like decking the halls and it’s probably hard to dream of a White Christmas when you aren’t sleeping at night. The palpable, frenzied happy feelings that pulse through the air and radio this time of year may be cutting you like a knife and nobody seems to really get it.

I just want to tell you — somebody gets it. In fact, He’s the reason all of this celebrating is happening. Buried beneath the white noise of holly, jolly, ho-ho-ho, 50% off, buy-more-save-more is a baby boy sleeping in a cow trough, his mother exhausted and in pain on the cold barn floor and his father with deep lines of fatigue and wonder tracing his face.

I know it seems so ridiculous that a baby would save the world. Even more ridiculous to believe that God would become a man. Christmas is absurd, really. But God has never done things the way we expect Him to, or even demand Him to. He is not in the business of catering to finite, individual understandings of who He ought to be and how He ought to act.

He is in the glory business. The kind of glory which displays a radiant hope that pierces through thickening hate. Glory that takes deep pain and massages it gently into restored wholeness. Glory that sees lost causes as second chances. Glory that points to a God we just can’t summarize.

Christmas is about a God who saw you hurting and scared and tired and angry and said, “I am coming to heal that. Forever. Once for all.”

The sin that plagues you internally and externally is waging war so ferociously because it has already lost. It is frantic to distract you from Christmas, desperate to keep you from Easter.

In case you thought that Christmas runs only as deep as the warm-fuzzy feelings, I wanted to tell you how wrong you are. It finds the lonely, isolated, angry, heartbroken, and torn and says, “Ahhh yes. This is where I belong. I love you. You matter to me. Will you hear me? Will you believe that I came for you?”

I’m praying that you hear it, this year. The real sound of Christmas ringing through the cold, dark winter of your pain — a thrill of hope, a new and glorious morn.

Thank you for Thanksgiving: A Tribute to the Hostess

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

Dear Grandma Barbara,

For as long as I can remember, sitting in the backseat of the family van or  in Dad’s “banana boat” grand marquis, we would take the windy roads back to “the Farm.” As the tires crunched the gravel and the dogs barked we all clamored out of the car to participate in a family greeting that would take at least 5 minutes. We would hug and exclaim, “Good to see you!”, we would scratch behind the dog’s ears, get lost in one of Pop-Pop’s bear hugs ’til we finally found our way up to the porch.

Sometimes you would be standing there at the screen door, eyes laughing, face lighting up and flour on your apron. Most times we would find you in the kitchen, bustling around from fridge to counter to stove to fridge to sink and back to counter.

You always opened your arms to us, inviting us into a warm hug spiced with turkey seasonings and pumpkin pie.

As we played away the afternoons on go-karts (which mysteriously seemed to get smaller with each passing year 😉 ), you would still be bustling and setting places, preparing and taste-testing. We wandered through the acres, exploring creeks and getting leaves stuck in our shoelaces, building up an appetite to end all appetites.

Eventually the words “Dinner’s ready!” would tickle our chilled ears and we’d race back inside to tables that were neatly arranged with lace tablecloths and shiny silverware. We always walked right past the pies as they were laid out neatly by the front door, taunting our tastebuds and daring us to skip the turkey.

As our large family scrunched into the dining room, a few stragglers in the foyer, dad would usually give thanks to God for family and life and health and all the other things we take for granted. I have to say though that when you read straight from the Book of Common Prayer a few years ago, tears filling your words and spilling onto your blouse, I had never felt the presence of God more clearly in that familiar and sacred dining room. Thank you for praying and for believing.

When we were all just a bunch of mop-headed rascals with no spouses or kids in tow, we sat in another room, making your fine crystal goblets sing as our fingers danced on the rims. There may have been a few times when food was tossed around and many a roll was fought over. Sorry for all of those messes.

Even after your grandkids’ shoulders broadened, and their legs lengthened and were eventually filling up your door frames, you rose to the challenge of filling teenage bellies, and finally setting a table for almost twice the number of people as we introduced significant others to “Thanksgiving on the Farm.”

This is the first year we won’t be tucking in a Thanksgiving feast around that familiar dining room together. So I wanted to tell you, thank you. Thank you for all of those feasts and for all of the preparation and for making a place that encouraged togetherness, conversation, and laughter. I don’t think I ever really thanked you enough. Not just for the turkey and pies and place settings, but for your spirit and your warmth that filled up your home.

Thank you for praying and taking care of us. All of us.

I know as the years pass that we will begin new Thanksgiving traditions with our families. We will set new tables with old recipes and invite loved ones into our homes. I just wanted to tell you that I am immeasurably grateful that you were the mastermind behind my childhood Thanksgivings. You have laid in me a foundation of warmth, cheer, hospitality and spunk. Grandma Barbara, you have played a special role in shaping me into the woman I am today and I should have told you this a long time ago.

I love you.

Thank you for everything.

Thank you for Thanksgiving.

Rachel

The Best Parts of Life

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Last night we said goodbye to close friends we’ve walked through life with over the past several years. For John, he was saying goodbye to someone he’s been in community with for 10 years. And that’s hard.

After all the festivities of the goodbye celebration and putting away all the leftovers of their fridge into ours (what are good friends for right?), John and I sat on our patio to soak up the remainder of the unusually cool evening. It’s in moments like these when the pain that’s been throbbing in the back of your heart finally gets the attention it’s been craving. When life grows quiet we naturally find ourselves looking on the inside and assessing how we’re really doing.

We had sent our friends off with absolutely zero question in their minds of how much we loved them and are so thrilled for their new adventure. Our appreciation for them has grown from a place of countless gatherings, many tears as we stood by them during deep and dark waters of grief, and hours of laughter and encouragement. As I was processing this transition with John last night I recognized in me this compulsion to push aside the feelings of pain welling up in my heart and force myself to think of all the ways this move is wonderful and God-honoring etc.

I am a stubborn optimist but sometimes I can’t get out of my own way and just grieve. I struggle to let myself sit in the reality that I can’t pop in for a visit or spontaneously spend a Friday night with them anymore. It hurts to go there, you know? To let yourself think about it.

I’m learning that there really is no reason to be unnecessarily brave when your heart is breaking. Let it break. And over time, watch as it fills up with an appreciation for your life and the people in it that wasn’t there before. 

As a Virginia girl falling in love with the Lonestar State, as a sister embracing the role of “crazy aunt Rachel in TX” , as a friend learning to make sporadic emails and phone calls count for something, I am amazed at the resiliency of relationships. All of our hearts are so fragile and yet we willingly enter into each other’s lives because we need each other. All of those ugly cries in the car and quiet streaming tears on the back patio, are proof that you have chosen to invest yourself in something more important than your own happiness. Love is a beautiful, difficult giving away of yourself.

I have become too familiar with the throbbing pulse of “I hate this” in my throat as I enter into each new chapter of sending/ leaving/missing. Yet I have also experienced the balm of genuine friendship, laughed until I cried, held a brand-new human being and carried loved ones in prayer through those chapters. New chapters have always lead me to new loved ones because God is in the business of making sure we share what He has given us. The more of myself I have given away, the more I have experienced the best parts of life.

Last night I scooped up my rambunctious 3-year-old godson for the last time for a long time, planted a big kiss on his cheek and said, “Buddy? Do you know that I love you?” “Yes!” he responded, with joy sparkling in his eyes, “And I love you too!” As I watched him run off to play, I let my heart break. I admitted to myself that this was hard but I realized I didn’t regret one moment I spent loving that little booger or his family.

Love has a funny way of filling us up even as we pour ourselves out.

 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:7

 

Fünf Jahre!

John,

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.

Happy Anniversary!

My happy place. :)

We clean up pretty nice 😉

To the beacons of hope

Girl Holding Plant

DISCLAIMER: I am not pregnant. This is just a bundle of thoughts that have been stewing in my brain.

I’m terrified of having kids. I’m terrified that he/she will have a piece of me indwelling them — the piece(s) that’s insecure, unsure of their steps, chained to the demands of the people around them. I’m scared of the world they’ll enter into — the world that says love is a feeling, and it’s ok to let people go and move onto something else that “feels good” if you’re done with whatever else you “thought you loved.” The world that says it’s all about them and gives kudos for buying a homeless man a sandwich or dropping some quarters in the salvation army bucket but discourages them from really living beyond their comfort zone. I’m terrified because I don’t believe I’m ready to live beyond mine.

Then I remember the families I know who are making it work, by God’s grace. Their kids can tell me with confidence that Jesus loves them and that God is good. Their marriages are still genuinely in tact, if not thriving. Even after four kids and dirty diapers and whiny teenagers. The husband prays with his wife, the wife watches the game with her husband. They’re the ones who make sacrifices on a daily basis – giving and loving and disciplining and praying and praying and praying. Many people smirk and laugh, “Look how ridiculous that is! Those stupid Christians. Brainwashing their kids to believe in a God who created them and actually cares about them.” But these families press on and press in and I am so thankful for their example.

So much of this world is cracking under the weight of its own expectations and disappointed in its self-inflicted rat race for pleasure and power and MORE. I get swept up in that race a lot, until grace tackles me to the ground and stubbornly reminds me that I am loved and valued and OK.

These families are living proof to me that where cynicism may be slicing homes, relationships, and dreams apart — the Gospel is in the business of mending and strengthening them. So, thank you. If you are a mom or dad or grandma or uncle or godfather who is faithfully raising children to know and love their Maker — please be encouraged. Your commitment to grace and Truth are evidenced in how God is using your home to be a beacon of hope in a world that can’t seem to stop fighting it. When I play with your kids or watch them grow up via Facebook (sorry for the one million “likes” on all those photos btw), my heart is renewed by the goodness of our great God. I remember I have the same hope in Him and that my home is also a beacon.

You and I both know we don’t get it right all the time but, because of Jesus, we know we don’t have to.

I have to keep reminding myself that God knows (if children are in my future), what kind of world they will grow up in. He knows the friends they will make, the places they will explore, the hurts they will endure, and the very last day of their lives. He knows all of it and he calls me to step out in faith and “GO.”

Make disciples.

GO

Be fruitful and multiply.

GO

Love your neighbor as yourself.

GO

And do not be afraid,

Because I have gone before you.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus

My Favorite Men Month (Part 2): Husband

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

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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.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.

Chapters 1 – 4

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.

My beloved Bible Study while I was learning how to be a wife. They are such amazing people. <3

My beloved Bible Study while I was a newlywed. A constant source of 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!

NOT.

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.

Ol' faithful Penskepants that moved our life half-way across the country.

The faithful Penskepants that moved our life half-way across the country.

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)

Finishers of the 2012 Dallas Half-Marathon!

Finishers of the 2012 Dallas Half-Marathon!

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.

OK. Clearly we aren't legitimately angry in this picture. Just some good ol'-fashioned Christmas party photobooth drama ;)

OK. Clearly we aren’t legitimately angry in this picture… but you get the idea 😉

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.

Happy Anniversary, John! I love you times a million. :)

Happy Anniversary, John! I love you. 🙂