With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s nearly impossible not to think about what I’m most thankful for. I’d say this year, my “most thankful” thing is the miracle God has given us inside my belly! But, as I think about my life in general, the last six years have proven to give me many thankful moments as well as some “God, show me why I should be thankful” moments.
Ryan and I have shared lots of joyful times in our marriage. Without a doubt, he is the best thing that has ever happened to me, aside from my relationship with Jesus. I’m a complex person who desires to be loved deeply and…he does that (more than I ever thought anyone was capable of, actually), but we’ve also had some not-so-pretty moments in our marriage.
I wanted to share some things I feel I’ve learned along the way and I’d have to say, I’m pretty thankful that God allowed me to experience these times of growth with Ryan. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know I’ve learned a lot in these last six years and a lot of it had to do with learning that I don’t have to be perfect.
1. He can’t read MY mind.
It was our first year of marriage and Valentine’s Day was approaching. To me, the ideal gift would be a card and some pretty flowers. I would take a handwritten note or card over any gift, any day! I just feel there’s so much thought and effort that goes into writing someone and it means the world to me when people take the time to do that. I can remember actually telling Ryan not to buy me anything for Valentine’s Day our first year as a married couple, that the day was over advertised and I didn’t need anything. My thought was, “He’ll read my mind and know that deep down inside I want flowers and a card.”
Well, Valentine’s Day approached and…no flowers. No card. I was disappointed to say the least.
Ryan acted shocked when he realized I was upset. Friends, I am here to tell you that guys can’t read your mind, so if you’re hoping for something or wanting something, TELL HIM! I will say Ryan is an incredible gift-giver and always keeps me on my toes, but sometimes there are things I need from him and instead of hoping and wishing he’ll read my mind, I’ve learned I just need to communicate those desires to him. This isn’t just for gifts, it goes for anything! Unrealistic expectations leave you disappointed, frustrated and upset. This isn’t fair to your significant other or any other person that encounters your disappointment, so don’t be afraid to communicate!
2. Grace, not perfection.
For a good chunk of our married life, I strived to be perfect. Not just a perfect wife, but perfect in every single aspect of my life. Anything less than perfection wasn’t okay with me. I even imposed this mindset of perfection on other people…especially Ryan. Not for one second has Ryan expected perfection out of me; this is a pressure I’ve placed on myself.
I read two books earlier this year: “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. Let me just tell you, God moved through me in incredible ways after reading these two books. Not only did I finally know and understand the freedom we have in Christ, but I finally let go of the person I thought I was supposed to be so that I could embrace the person God made me to be. I can give my best, do my best and be my best, and that’s all anyone ever expects. In moments where I feel less than my best, God shows us grace. Ryan shows me grace. Understanding this has taken so much pressure off our marriage and I’m not spending my days devaluing our less-than-perfect times together. Every day is a gift from the Lord and that in and of itself is God showing us grace.
3. Life is Messy.
Totally. Completely. Ryan has seen me at my best and my absolute worst. I have gone from being happy and laughing to crying and throwing a tantrum like a toddler in the next breath. I don’t think anything can ever fully prepare you for marriage and the experiences you go through. Life happens. And sometimes, that life is super-messy.
When I am weak, He is strong. Our Heavenly Father picks up our dirty, messy, nasty pieces and makes it into a masterpiece. Each story is unique. Each person goes through life’s ups and downs and that’s what makes us us. I told Ryan before we got married and even into our married life that my biggest fear would be for him to fall out of love with me. That maybe, just maybe, I would do something “messy” enough that would cause him to stop loving me. As many times as he told me how ridiculous that statement was, it wasn’t until I stopped and realized that God put Ryan into my life and that God will NEVER ever stop loving me.
Ryan allows the Lord to love through him and because of that, he loves me in incredible ways. Even on my worst of days, Ryan still loves me. Even when I’ve said or done some not-so-nice things, Ryan still loves me. There are some days when I don’t know how I can get out of what I’ve created to be a mess, but I remember the hope and faith we have in our Lord and I am reminded that everything can change with God’s help.
4. Prayer Changes Everything.
I could shout this from the rooftops. Just the other night Ryan and I got into what I’ll just call a little “tiff”. I felt unappreciated and he felt I was being stubborn. I stayed downstairs to watch a Hallmark movie and Ryan ended up falling asleep upstairs. I prayed that God would work everything out and that we’d wake up in the morning and both be able to apologize and put the stupid argument behind us. I steamed on the argument for a while, cried through the Hallmark movie and went to bed still feeling a little upset.
I woke up the next morning with a new perspective and Ryan did the same. We apologized to one another, hugged and moved on from the night before. I am 100% confident prayer changed that circumstance. It took me a long time to first go to the Lord whenever Ryan and I would argue or get in a disagreement about something. There have also been times when all I knew to do was pray about a situation and God has always come through for me.
In the moments where Ryan and I can’t seem to get past an argument, I pray. It may take some time, but it always works out and I believe Ryan and I walk away from those experiences stronger and better.
5. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.
There were times that I thought I’d never get married. I dated a tiny bit in college, but I really struggled with trusting that God had someone for me. Despite my fears, I didn’t give up on praying for my future husband and when it was God’s perfect timing, I met Ryan. We dated a few years before getting married and I thought I knew everything there was to know about life and marriage, but it wasn’t until we were married that God allowed new experiences to shape me and help me understand how God truly sees me.
There have been several times in our marriage when we’ve both longed for something…for God to move and answer our prayers, but God delivers on His timing. We think we know what’s best for us, but He knows better. When things come easy, we often don’t appreciate it as much. In moments of waiting we develop, learn and grow and good things are usually the end result, even when the journey to get there can be hard and painful. I definitely don’t have all the answers about marriage, but I do know that Ryan was worth the wait. This baby in my belly was worth the wait. When we can’t seem to put the puzzle pieces together in our lives, we just have to wait and trust that God has an ultimate plan for good.
I love my life with Ryan. No, every day is not easy and marriage can be hard work. Ryan has always said, “What doesn’t come naturally must come intentionally.” We try to live with intention in our marriage. I love Ryan and I know he loves me. We’ve learned a lot in these last six years and I know the journey is only about to get sweeter. We love doing life with you all and Ryan and I would not be who we are today without the community of friends and family we have around us.
For that, we are truly thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
Self-captured family photos at Keeneland on November 18, 2012