When Your Spouse Goes Back to School

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Daniel Swanson Photography

I figured out the source of my blues from last month, and once again the blame lies with my least favorite word: transition.

This time, though, the transition wasn’t mine.

A few months ago, my husband quit his full-time job and went back to school to study computer science. We both knew – or at least trusted – that it was a good move for our future. Thanks to God’s provision and the generous support  of family, we were (fairly) confident we’d be able to pay our bills. Still, it was a big leap of faith for my husband. I don’t think I realized how big.

I’ve always been the worried one in our relationship. I over-think small decisions. I am swift to consider potential problems, to the point that I sometimes squelch happy dreams. Any transition, even the positive ones, tend to leave me trembling with anxiety. This particular change, however, didn’t bother me.

I knew my husband was nervous about his first week of classes, and I was vaguely sympathetic, but I was far more interested in my own career. I had a good job; he would be fine. In fact, my main worry was that his homework might interfere with our hang-out time in the evenings.

A few weeks into his classes, I started to notice a change in our home life. We began quarreling far more frequently. It bewildered me. I’d come home from a great day at work, and we’d end the night with tears and angry silences. The fights were silly ones, but the mood between us had noticeably shifted.

I remember thinking, Maybe this is the hard part everyone warned us about.

I remember thinking, Maybe this is the hard part everyone kept warning us about when we got married. Maybe we just don’t like each other as much. The thought had barely formulated before I rejected it. We were still crazy about each other. We always would be. There must be a reason for the sudden tension.

The fact that I took so long to trace the source proves how clueless I was about my husband’s emotional life. Ever since graduating from college, he has tackled adulthood head-on. I’ve never known him to hold fewer than three jobs. Even now that he’s back in school, he works part-time for our church and  runs his own business from our basement. Financial independence is hugely important to him, as is his vision of “success.” He frequently worries that he hasn’t achieved enough — that he’s progressing too slowly.

I don’t remember how the conversation started, but I finally got around to asking him how he felt about quitting his job. I quickly discovered that he felt he had taken a step backward — even though he knew this degree would benefit his future. In one clarifying moment I realized the tension I had sensed wasn’t about me. My husband was understandably stressed by a major life change. Perhaps if I had taken a more active look outside my own emotions, I would have recognized it sooner.

As I write this, my husband is totally rocking his classes. We’re paying our bills every month, and we still really like each other. The change continues to carry its stressors, but next time I feel the strain, I’ll look for practical explanations instead of assuming the worst.

I still hate transitions. I’m learning, however, that identifying the source of my blues can sometimes help cure them.  Hopefully I’m learning a little something about empathy, too. Most importantly, this blip on our marital radar has reminded me that I’m not the only one facing uncomfortable adjustments. It’s nice to feel like a team again.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

In Search of Joy

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Daniel Swanson Photography

The last few weeks have felt a little heavy, and I’m not sure why.

The weird thing is, a lot of wonderful stuff happened recently. A friend of mine accepted Christ and was baptized. I got to be part of her decision. My husband played a gig in Vail, so we stayed for free. We spent an entire Saturday wandering in and out of shops, surrounded by mountains. I successfully produced a few live radio shows at work. During one show, I got to shake the hand of a WWII veteran who just finished an incredible sculpture — at the age of 94.

Seems like life would be feeling pretty good right now. For some reason, though, I’m having trouble shaking these depressive feelings.

The other night I got into bed feeling sorry for myself. My husband was up late with homework, so I was going to bed alone. Instead of turning the lights out and moping, I opened my dresser drawer and pulled out a book I’ve never read, one that I got for free. The first chapter was about reading God’s Word and applying it to my life.

It’s been a while since I spent regular time in the Word. Last year, when everything was so difficult, I read the Bible and prayed obsessively, begging God for answers. I think I wore myself out a little. This year I’ve backed off, trying to give my heart a break. I may have missed the happy medium.

Placing the book back in my nightstand, I opened Numbers and took a stab at application: reading a passage and then asking myself, “How can I obey these words?” It was one of those chapters about sacrifices, in which God told the Jews exactly how many goats they needed to slaughter every month. I had to use my imagination, but I decided my version of a daily “sacrifice” could be reading a brief Bible passage every morning and evening. I went to sleep feeling surprisingly refreshed.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

– Psalm 51:12, NIV

I believe God uses every piece of our lives to teach us about Himself. He’s using my job and the time I spend in church and the numbers in my bank account . . . all of it. I can still grow in the Lord when I’m not studying the Bible every day. Still, staying in touch with the Holy Spirit makes a difference.

I’m needing refreshment right now. A day off might help — and I was thankful for the three-day Labor Day weekend — but more than that, I need some refreshment of the soul. Reading a few Bible verses twice a day may not cure my blues, but it could help shift my focus. After all, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

5 Reasons I Love Wedding Photos

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Daniel Swanson Photography

I will seriously be your friend on Facebook just so I can look at your wedding photos.

Part of the reason I started this blog was so that I’d have an excuse to share my wedding photos, and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing so. (On a side note, I highly recommend Daniel Swanson Photography for anyone living in the Denver area.) I have spent long periods of time clicking through photos of people I hardly know and have probably come across as creepy due to hitting “like” so many times. Because I know nothing about photography, I am simply going to explore my emotions surrounding wedding photos and hopefully discover why, exactly, I love them so much.

With permission, I have chosen a few photos from the weddings of friends to illustrate what I love about wedding photos in general. If I didn’t choose yours, it’s not because I don’t love them. These were simply the first ones I thought of.

1. Light

Brides standing in front of windows, light streaming through their veils and the fabric of their dresses. Bridal parties standing under trees, light filtering through the leaves. Couples leaving receptions, their faces lit by a hundred sparklers. It seems to me that each wedding album has its own mood, and that mood comes across in the lighting.

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Anna Lee Photography

2. Personalities

In my experience, people tend to be happy at weddings, and I really like photos of happy people. I love photos of dads getting choked up, bridesmaids dancing like dorks, or couples being totally adorable. Weddings are about people, and some of the best photos capture simple moments between people who love each other.

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Andrew Burns Photography

3. Details

Some brides are so doggone creative. I love the little touches that make a wedding unique. I have personally attended weddings that should dominate Pintrest.

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Anna Perevertaylo Photography

4. Colors

Every once in a while I’ll see a wedding photo that pops, and it’s usually because of a bright color or contrast between colors. Again, I’m neither a photographer nor an artist; I just happen to love bright colors. Plus, I know that people tend to choose the colors they love most when they plan a wedding. Maybe displaying those colors in a photo helps show a piece of who they are.

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Daniel Swanson Photography

5. Romance

I’m a little obsessed with kissing photos, as my photographer quickly discovered when I requested about ten different poses involving a kiss. I come from a long line of couples who love each other, as does my husband, and it makes me all gushy to see people who are genuinely in love.

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Daniel Swanson Photography

In short, I love wedding photos because I love pretty things, and I love the feeling of joy accompanying this occasion. If you want to make me really happy, comment on this post by sharing a favorite wedding photo, and then tell me what you love about it. It can be from your own wedding or from a friend’s. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who walks down magazine aisles flipping through page after page of white dresses. Help me add to my list of reasons wedding photos are wonderful.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography
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Anna Perevertaylo Photography
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Andrew Burns Photography
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Daniel Swanson Photography

What Normal Feels Like

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Something hit me at work today: I’m not afraid of my job.

I’ve spent most of my life being afraid of ordinary things. I hated giving people hugs as a kid, and I never wanted to say hello to acquaintances at church. Calling people on the phone scared me. Swallowing pills scared me. When I learned to drive, I was afraid of turning left. Studying for tests scared me – not the test itself, but studying for it. Having a boyfriend scared me, thinking about marriage scared me, and getting engaged scared me so badly that I almost didn’t do it.

Now my job is to ask people – really capable, interesting people – about their passions. My job is also to form paragraphs beginning with a hook and ending with a call to action. I am not afraid of those things.

My Junior year of college I spent a semester studying at Oxford University in England. While I was there I attended lectures that blew my mind, entered libraries that were hundreds of years old, and wrote poetry for homework. I also learned something about myself: I don’t particularly enjoy solo adventures.

I don’t particularly enjoy solo adventures.

All those hours alone in grand, silent buildings made me terribly lonely. This was a startling discovery because until that point I had considered myself an introvert who needed her “alone time.” I decided I could never do research for a living because I needed to work with people.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m participating in something I didn’t know existed. I do research, but it’s in-person research. Instead of taking notes in a library, I ask questions face to face, and I’m usually accompanied by a more experienced salesperson, so there’s not as much pressure.

Not being afraid is kind of weird. The same thing is happening with my marriage. I’m not nervous about our relationship; instead, being with my husband makes me happy, confident, and secure. Of course working full-time is an adjustment, and I’ve been exhausted a lot the past few weeks. Nevertheless, large parts of my life are beginning to feel … normal.

I like the feeling of normalcy, especially when I was expecting a scary transition. It’s nice to know I can be calm about the two most prominent features of my life, work and family. In fact, it feels a little like a miracle.

I’m realizing that I can’t always predict what will scare me and what won’t. The best I can do is accept each event with the emotions that accompany it and do my best to remember that God is involved. He knew I would be afraid of getting married. He knew I wouldn’t be afraid of this job. He let me go through both with my good in mind.

I still get nervous about ordinary things like waking up early or asking my boss a question over the phone. I’m thrilled, though, by the blessings that have begun to feel commonplace. Thank you for helping me enjoy them.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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7 Things I Love About Love

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Daniel Swanson Photography

More specifically, these are seven things I love about being married to my husband.

1. A bigger family

I’m not just talking about the mini family we created when we got married. I’m talking about the addition of parents, grandparents, and siblings we didn’t have before. I love introducing him into my family circle, and I love how easily his family has included me in their love.

2. Waking up

Actually, I hate waking up, especially now that I’m adjusting to a new work schedule. 6AM has been feeling pretty miserable lately. The only happy part is a sleepy somebody to hug me when my alarm goes off and even staggar out of bed with me to make my lunch. On the weekends, I love snuggling up to him and falling asleep again.

3. Driving

The car is where he previews the latest songs recorded in our basement. It’s where we hold hands and talk about life. It’s where we sing at the top of our lungs and where I ooh and ahh over cloud formations while he mocks me. It’s our ticket to adventures: road trips to Kansas, weekends in Woodland Park, day trips to Fort Collins. It’s also where we had our first conversation, after I ran up to him asking for a ride to an audition.

4. Physical affection

When we were dating, the whole concept of purity really stressed me out. I always worried about how much affection was too much. Now I kiss him in public and don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about it.

5. Forever

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to know I’ll be hanging out with this guy permanently.

6. My ring

If I may be girly for a moment, I’ve had this ring nine months now, and I still love turning my hand so I can watch it sparkle.

7. Movies

My love of movies borders on obsession. My mom likes to tell the story of when I was four months old, and she took me to the theater with her thinking I would nap. Instead, my little eyes were glued to the screen. It’s been like that ever since. I thank my lucky stars that I found a mate who shares my affinity for spending whole days on the couch living through story after story. The only difference is that he sometimes falls asleep during movies, and I never do.

This list could be a lot longer because almost everything in my life improves with sharing, but for now I’ll end by saying I’m thankful for a God who invented the concept of relationship and for a man who waited long enough to get to the happy part. Here’s to forever.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

 

Adulthood for Beginners

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Daniel Swanson Photography

I consider myself a beginner adult.

As such, there is a limited number of responsible activities I can (usually) handle on a daily basis. This list includes:

  1. Eating
  2. Going to work
  3. Spending time with my husband
  4. Sleeping
  5. Exercising a little
  6. Brushing and flossing my teeth

Not included on this list are:

  1. Dishes
  2. Weeding
  3. Picking up prescriptions from Walgreens
  4. Returning library books
  5. DMV appointments
  6. Daily showers

I would be interested to see what items make it onto your list of can-do activities. I would probably gain insight into both your personality and your priorities. In my case, the above list reflects the current scope of my emotional stamina.

Being a beginner adult means that I generally know what I’m supposed to be doing but don’t feel much hope that I will do it. I read emails reminding me that my book was overdue last Tuesday and that, if I don’t pick up my prescription today, I’ll have to re-order. I watch the prickly green monsters in my yard approach knee-height and wonder how long it will be until the neighbors complain. I build precarious towers of bowls in the sink, and I braid my hair in the mornings hoping no one can tell that it’s a little greasy.

A dear friend of mine once received mockery for keeping her Christmas tree months beyond December. She did not want to keep it. Its needles had long ago died – although they somehow remained attached to their branches – and she had packed away all the lights and ornaments. Still the tree sat, bare and faded, in her living room.

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Daniel Swanson Photography
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Daniel Swanson Photography

At the time I laughed at her a little over the phone, but I totally got it. Like me, this friend was adjusting to married life for the first time. Her brand-new job was physically and emotionally exhausting. She was fresh out of college and unused to home ownership. It was just . . . a lot to handle.

I’m sure those of you who have been adulting for decades will back me up on this: the little stuff can be tough. Sometimes I observe people like my mother who continuously accomplish feats such as grocery shopping, putting dinner in the crock pot, taking children to dentist appointments, and scheduling emissions tests, and I feel slightly panicked. It looks so easy for them, I think.

Chances are good, however, that it was a learning curve for them, too.

My hope is that adulthood will be like driving on the freeway: it will take practice. I remember a time when merging onto I25 terrified me. Now I change lanes without thinking. (Except in downtown Denver. Please don’t ask me to drive downtown.) One day cooking dinner for a family of four won’t seem like a big deal, and neither will driving to the pharmacy.

For now, I’ll try not to get too frustrated about the dishes and focus on what I am accomplishing. I love my husband, and we spend lots of time watching The Office in bed. We usually have clean laundry (even if it stays piled in the hamper instead of going in the drawers). We cuddle with our kitty and, when we can, prioritize time with parents and grandparents. I’m learning a lot at work. We’re growing and stretching, and I will get better at this stuff.

Until then, I’ll take adulthood one step at a time.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

When You Get what You Prayed for

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Daniel Swanson Photography

About a week ago, I got an amazing job.

This job promises to develop my strengths – writing and learning – while addressing my weaknesses (worrying and accepting criticism). It affirms my Christian values and surrounds me with strong, like-minded people. Furthermore, it came right when I needed it.

As of last month, my husband and I were approaching an uncertain financial future. Although I enjoyed my job at the coffeeshop, I wasn’t contributing much to our monthly bills. Meanwhile, he was crumbling beneath the strain of 3+ jobs. Something had to give. It occurred to me (last minute, as usual) to pray for a higher-paying job. A week or two later, I got the interview.

God doesn’t always work quickly, but when He does, it’s hard to miss the message. When my interviewer told me over the phone, “We’d like you to work for us,” I responded before he could take a breath: “Yes, I accept.” I would have been a fool to refuse.

But I wasn’t excited.

I didn’t hang up the phone doing a happy dance; I didn’t give anyone a hug. Instead, I prayed for courage before calling my old boss to give notice. I sent Facebook messages trying to get shifts covered and started cancelling plans that conflicted with my new work schedule. I shared the news with the necessary people (my husband, my mom, my girlfriends) and absorbed their congratulations perfunctorily, breathing deeply to combat the tightness in my stomach.

You see, change – even good change – is scary. Even when I clearly see God at work; even when I anticipate myriad practical benefits; even when I receive exactly what I asked for, I get nervous.

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Daniel Swanson Photography
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Daniel Swanson Photography

My mother, who knows me better than most, guessed how I was feeling. “Marie,” she told me, “you can trust God because this is what He has for you.” I replied that I did trust Him. I knew perfectly well that this job was part of His plan.

In a rational sense, I don’t have a problem trusting God. His active presence is the axiom to my theological proofs. (See, Mom? I retained something from geometry.) I do, however, struggle to embrace challenges with exuberant faith.

My laptop’s built-in dictionary defines trust as the “acceptance of the truth of a statement.” According to that definition, trust could happen at the cognitive level without extending to the gut: “Yes, Lord, I believe you – but will it hurt?” True faith, by contrast, reacts with joy to whatever future awaits. It takes a person of real courage to say with confidence, “I know Your plans are worth the pain. Bring it on, Lord.”

True faith reacts with joy to whatever future awaits.

Two days ago, my new job flew me to Philadelphia. I stayed in a hotel where the cleaning staff left chocolates on my pillows; I dined for free at three different restaurants; I attended a lecture on How to Listen; I filled an entire notebook with tips on effective communication. I even enjoyed it. Still, my primary emotion regarding the home trip was nervousness: what would the company expect from me when I returned? Could I really apply what I had learned?

My prayer for the upcoming months is that I would enter wholeheartedly into the work God has given me. While there is plenty of room in God’s kingdom for hesitant believers, I’d rather not remain one of them. Join me if you like.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography