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Relationship Advice #10

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Our wedding day

Wow! Can it possibly be true that 10 years has flown by in the blink of an eye?! Your Dad and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary today and we are proud to say that we have grown closer together in those last ten years than we ever thought possible.  It is true what they say–a good marriage is a labor of love!

Every year I write to you a little bit about what I have learned over the past year.  My hope is that by the time you are venturing into your own marriage you will have 30+ years of marriage tips/tricks and advice to help you navigate the waters.  When I think back on each year as they go by, I try to determine any over-arching themes, any areas that have stretched my thoughts or times that I have felt myself grow as a person.  Then I use what I have and try to convey some sort of (hopefully) helpful advice to you.  Also, if you look back on each year, it would be a pretty safe to say that the pieces of advice that I give are areas that I am currently or have intensely struggled with.  That is why they “stick out” to me as being important or recurring themes.  I am not perfect.  Marriages are not perfect.   They are a team effort that require a lot of give and take along the way.  If you look at each post as a “snapshot” of my year, I also hope that you’ll see little pieces of my heart and who I am/was during that time.

Sidenote: I just felt completely overwhelmed and compelled to tell you how much I love being your mom.  I am blessed to have you both in my life and I consider it the honor of a lifetime to be a part of yours.  ❤

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Here are links to previous years posts:

Years 1-6: (Year 1-5 were the “carefree” pre-children years, although they of course weren’t totally carefree…I just didn’t give much thought to the motherly advice I wanted to give yet.  Year 6 is when things got real and I had to start a blog so I could tell you all the things!), Year 7Year 8 and Year 9

This year’s relationship advice is a bit of a personal one and is something I believe we all may struggle with to a certain extent.

Relationship Advice #10: “For richer or for poorer” refers to  BOTH of those seasons of life and everything in between. Otherwise known as: Your “things” do not define you.

Hard times are bound to happen.  A lost job could turn your financial situation upside-down overnight.  A newly purchased car can become totaled within a week of purchase.  Bills can pile up, unexpected medical bills can nearly put you in near financial ruin.  Your health can deteriorate, a family member can pass away unexpectedly.  Life is good in the good times….but guess what– life is good in the hard times too.

This past year has been a tough one for us financially.  We struggled to see the good around us when it seemed like time and time again we just kept getting knocked down.  It was a difficult time, to say the least.

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“Team work makes the dream work.”

After sulking for a tiny bit, your Dad and I developed a plan.  We cut down our expenses, we nearly eliminated all of our personal disposable spending, we were creative with our grocery shopping (you’d be shocked at how many variations of spaghetti we have had in the past year! But at around $2.50/meal it truly can’t be beat!) and we prioritized every. single. thing. that we bought and constantly asked “Do I really need this?” before buying something new.  I’m talking down to questioning whether or not we really needed a new bottle of ketchup one time at the grocery store.  Things were really that tight.

Stress can ruin a lot of things for people.  Stress can either make or break a person. Financial stress is one of the biggest issues that can plague a relationship.  Spend time being intentional about how you handle the stress in your life.  Being intentional about handling the stress in my life is what made all the difference for us. We worked together, made decisions together and were determined to come out on top. We knew that nothing could be gained by trying to fix it alone and we knew that we could rely on each other no matter what came our way.  Find a partner who values your “team” and who knows that “team work makes the dream work.”

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Since I was questioning every single expense down to the bottle of ketchup, it goes without saying that items like new shoes, clothes, camera gear, etc. were completely and understandably put on the back burner.  You might have looked at our bank account and thought “Gee, these people sure don’t have a lot.” I’d be the first to tell you that you were completely and utterly wrong.

I found myself becoming increasingly aware of people around me.  I noticed my husband working harder than ever to support our family.  I saw my children (you!) laughing and smiling and learning and growing each day.  I began to see that God was placing certain people into my life for different reasons.  Some people had great messages and always seemed to say and do the right thing at the right time.  Sometimes it gave me chills, sometimes it brought tears to my eyes and sometimes it made me exhale in relief.  For example, the bible verse listed at the top of this post is a verse someone had shared with me after I had an exceptionally hard day.  I know with all of my being that that person was meant to share that scripture verse with me that day.  That was a time that I knew God was there.  I knew He was stretching me.  I knew He was growing me as a person and refining me to see the big picture in life.  I know he was trying to help me see what really mattered….and what didn’t.  I was reminded in that moment that God works all things together for good.  All things.  Even when we don’t understand it.

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After a time of not really thinking about buying “things” for myself, I started to notice that I stopped thinking about them (mostly, at least).  I recognized that “things” are just objects…some are helpful, some are not.  Some are just there.  They don’t define who we are.  Our personalities, who we are as people and the values that we have can define us as people.  What are we doing to make this world a better place? It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, something simple will do just as well.

I started to realize that life wasn’t about your job or how much money you had.  Your job title did not determine who you are.  Your job is fleeting.  Life is fleeting.  The only thing that lasts is love.  When we die, we can’t take any of our stuff with us.  We can, however,  leave the world a better place than how we found it.  We can realize that we are more than the clothes we wear or the things we have (or don’t have!).  Love is the only true wealth any of us can ever have.  The ripples left from a loving relationship can affect generations.  It truly is a beautiful opportunity we’ve been given to make the world a better place simply by loving others.

Helpful Tip: Be careful when justifying your purchases with phrases like “Well I work hard, so I deserve this.” A lot of people work hard.  A lot of people “deserve” those things too.  But for one reason or another, they may not be able to have it.  Keep that in mind, always.  Nothing in life is guaranteed or “deserved.”  Be thankful for everything.  Life is a gift.

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“I wish you bad luck- again, from time to time- so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life. And understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.”- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during a commencement speech for his son’s ninth grade graduation.

Some questions to consider to help you determine where the desires of your heart truly lie:

-Do I place more emphasis on wanting to acquire material items instead of what I can do to help make the world a better place?

-Do I notice the “things” people have and constantly compare what I have to what they have?

-Do I know without a doubt that although sometimes life is hard, God uses all things to work together for good?

-Am I capable of seeing myself, my partner and the people around me for who they are as people and not “what” they are?

So, my sweet ones, when you take your wedding vows and you say “For richer or for poorer,” know that that means during BOTH of those times and any time in between as well.  Use the hard times learn more about yourself and grow in your relationship with God and your spouse.  Realize that life isn’t just about you and sometimes the chips are going to be down.  Who are you going to be when the chips are down? Maybe you’ll decide you want to be that person when the chips are up again too.  I hope so.

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I love you, I love you, I love you.  To the moon and back! A thousand times! Forever and ever.

Love always,

Mommy

Relationship Advice #8

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“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34

Our wedding day

Our wedding day

Rachel and Jake,

Another year has passed since I last wrote to you about relationships.  If you need a refresher, you can look here and here to see some of my other entries about love and what it takes to make a relationship work.  Now I’m not saying I have all the answers, because I don’t.  Marriage is work and it is hard, hard work.  But with that being said, it’s also the best kind of work.  It stretches you and helps you to grow and see yourself as a part of something that is working for a common good.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.  Anyway, my hope is that by the time you are old enough to read this blog you will have a nice collection of advice from your dear old mom to consider when navigating through the dating world and eventually settling down into marriage–then the real fun begins! Each year I hope to give you one more tip to add to  your Rolodex of relationship advice (not sure what a Rolodex is? It’ll probably be non-existent by the time you can read this, but as your mother I find it most appropriate to talk about the things from yesteryear anyway 😉 )

tim and jake

Let’s talk a little bit about presence.

Ok, ok, I’m sorry, but we’re going to talk a lotta bit about presence, because it is very, very important in any stage of any relationship.

So little!

When you, Rachel, were born, your Dad and I had no idea what the every day expectation of having a newborn was going to consist of.  We knew that we would feed you and change you and hopefully get to rest when you did, but we did not know what our new little family of three was going to look like and how those dynamics of our family would be shaped.  It’s something that you just can’t experience or fully prepare for until it happens! We had lots of conversations about what we thought it would be like, but looking in from an outsider’s perspective before something happens is always different from when you are 100% in the trenches living it day in and day out. By the time Jake was born, we had a better picture of what our expectations were–but again, you can never really be prepared until you are living it.  So once Jake was born, things were shifted and moved around in ways that we could not have foreseen, but it just worked for us.

Rachel and Daddy

Rachel, my sweet little dear, I have a confession to make to you right now.  From the time you were born until the time you were about one week old, I did not change a single diaper.  Your Dad changed every. single. one. until you were nearly a week old.  Every single one.  Every single time.  I still get blown away when I think about that.  There I was on the couch after a tough delivery that left me in pain to move any ol’ which way I tried, and there was your Dad (never having changed a diaper before you, by the way), taking it upon himself to change your diaper no matter what time of day or night without giving so much as an inkling that he felt it should or even could be any other way.  Luckily, when Jake was born my recovery was much easier so luckily for us both, I was able to help out much more the second time around.

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Before you were born, I thought it was only a mother’s instinct that would cause her to wake up because her newborn baby was stirring in the bassinet beside her, ready to be fed.  And yet, each time either of you woke up at night, guess who was the one to get out of bed and bring you to me before I even had a chance to sit up? Yes, it was your Dad.  From the very beginning of our parenting experience he has been there for us with an enthusiasm and outlook that can only come from love in it’s most pure form.  He’s there because he loves us and he wants to be there.  It really is as simple as that.

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There isn’t a job that he won’t do. He has never handed either of you off to me because he doesn’t want to change a diaper, and he doesn’t ask me what I’m making you for lunch. If he’s playing with you and your diaper needs changed, he changes it! If he notices that it’s time for lunch, guess what? He makes it! And likewise, I do the same.  It’s truly a wonderful thing.  In your Dad’s and my mind–there are no “woman” or “man” jobs, there are only “parent” jobs.  And for those jobs, either one–mom or dad– will work.  Our expectation is that whoever is able to do it, does it. At the end of the day, we clean up the toys together, we put the dishes away and prepare things for the next day.  Oh yeah, your school lunches? Those aren’t always packed by me either–your Dad can cut sandwiches into sailboats better than I can!

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The best part, is that these are things we didn’t even talk about ahead of time.  These examples (and there are many more to go along with them!) are just some of the ways that your Dad has been there for us without ever even giving it a second thought.  Not keeping score, not throwing it all on one person, but really choosing over and over again to be there for us in every way possible.

So…without further adieu, here’s relationship tip #8.

Tip #8: Be with someone whose second nature is to be physically, spiritually and emotionally present in your relationship.

Choose someone who not only wants to be there in those ways–but someone who really does not see any other way of conducting themselves in your relationship without those things.  Begging for support in any of those areas can be totally draining to both sides.  Choose someone who will meet your expectations in each of those areas.  If your expectations are not met, it can lead to resentment and hard feelings–both of which can be toxic to any relationship.  In the entire picture of your life, your relationship should be equally balanced between two people who are willing to sacrifice and give in order to make it work.  BOTH people need to be present in order for those sacrifices to be made and valued.

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In closing, here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if you and your spouse are really and truly present in your relationship.

– Do I offer help with every day tasks without keeping score? Do I see what needs to be done and do it, or do I wait because it’s not my “job”? Do I value my partner enough to go outside of my comfort zone in order to help my partner feel supported?

– Do I know the spiritual concerns of my partner? What can I do to help my partner along in their spiritual journey? What do they feel called towards? How can I help them reach their calling?

– What is troubling my partner today? What is my partner proud of themselves for doing recently? What is my partner’s emotional climate like? Why? What can I do to help support my partner’s feelings and emotions?

Don’t worry–you got this! And if you don’t, your partner will be there to help you pick up the slack! 🙂 Right?

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With all that said, I love you both very much. More than you could ever know.

Love always,

Mommy

xoxo

PS. Let’s just take a minute and cheers to your Dad! He truly is one of the best one’s out there…Cheers to you, Tim! We wouldn’t be who or where we are today without you! Happy Anniversary! Here’s to a hundred, and a thousand more.

Relationship Advice: 6 Things I Want You to Know

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Our wedding day

Our wedding day

Dear Rachel,

Today your Daddy and I celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary! I hope that someday you are blessed to share the type of love that Daddy and I share.  It is truly one of the best things in life! While we are not perfect, and our marriage is not perfect, we have made it a priority to do as much as we can to be the best we can be in our marriage and ourselves—for each other, and for you, sweet one.  Your Daddy and I have spent nearly 10 years building our relationship and growing in love with one another.  We have not been married for many, many years (yet!), but we have dealt with many struggles that come with life (someday I’ll tell you about them…but not now) but we have shared many more happy times together as well!

Since this blog is for you, and your soon-to-be baby brother, and any other siblings you may be blessed with in the future, I want to share some advice when it comes to relationships and love.  Sorry, it’s just what Mom’s do! We feel the need to nurture you and help you grow in any and all ways we know how.  Someday when you read this (and I’m not sure yet when that will be), I hope you know how much I love you and want what is best for you.  Already I pray for your future spouse and your children, just as I have prayed for you since I was a little girl.  Since your Daddy and I have been married for six years, here are six things (in no particular order) you should always remember when it comes to relationships and love.  Keep in mind, I am not an expert in these things.  These are just things that I have learned from experience or advice that other people have given to me. Ready? Here we go…

1.)    You are here for a purpose.  

“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Psalm 139:14

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5

YOU, my dear, are not a mistake.  You were put here on this earth to be someone special and to do great things.  When I say “great things,” I don’t mean you have to cure cancer (although, that would be amazing!), I mean that by being yourself and developing all the talents God has given you, you will be bound to do great things! Don’t think for a second that you do not have purpose or meaning in this world. Love yourself, and be a person of integrity and virtue.  You are a child of God, and He does not make mistakes. Ever.

2.)    Build a foundation based on sincere friendship.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.” Ecclesiastes 4:9–10

Your parents-- hanging out and being silly!

Your parents– hanging out and being silly! circa 2005

When you find yourself wanting to start a new relationship, make sure it has a foundation rooted in deep and sincere friendship. If it doesn’t, you will be fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.  Finding someone who has similar values, goals and beliefs is crucial to the success of your relationship.  Life is full of ups and downs, and if you are able to trudge through it all with your best friend by your side then the ride will be that much smoother.  Don’t force a friendship though, if he happens to not be your type of friend—then he’s probably not your type of partner either! Differences on the small things don’t matter as much—but the big things, like life goals, family goals and religious beliefs matter A LOT! Make sure all these things align (at least closely) before you get too far in.  Developing a friendship where you can learn all of this ahead of time will help take care of all these things. 

3.)    Trust yourself.

 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

There's a great big world out there, kiddo. Go and get any thing your heart desires!

There’s a great big world out there, kiddo. Go and get any thing your heart desires!

You are no dummy. If something seems like a red flag, it probably is.  Don’t waste your time thinking someone will change or that things will get better.  If you are dating a dud (or worse, married to a dud) find someone better!

Helpful Tip:  Almost everyone dates at least one “dud” in their lifetime, but don’t worry, it helps us to appreciate the good ones even more! And trust me, the good ones ARE out there!

4.)    Be willing to “give” as much as you are willing to “take”.

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:38

Life isn't always about doing the things that you want to do.

Life isn’t always about doing the things that you want to do. Make sure you are both willing to do things the other person wants to do.  And who knows, you might even end up liking it!

This one can sometimes be hard to do.  It’s not always fun doing “boring” or “silly” things that your partner wants to do.  But, it builds character and helps develop and cultivate your relationship with each other.  Sometimes we have to do things like that to show the other person that we care.  “Giving” in a relationship is just as important as “taking.”  If someone is always “taking” and never “giving” then you probably need to reevaluate your relationship, or lack thereof.  Balance is key.

Helpful tip: Don’t keep specific tabs on how much you give or how much your partner takes, just be sure that it feels about even when you look at the whole scheme of your relationship.  Some months you may give more than you take, or take more than you give and that’s ok, too. 

 

5.)    Be with someone who will encourage you and inspire you to do your best in all areas of life.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” 

Hebrews 10:24

You are meant to do great things!

You are meant to do great things!

Your ideal partner will inspire you to be the best version of yourself just by being who they are.  If someone drags you down—leave, and leave quickly! You are meant to do great things, don’t let anyone (and I mean anyone), tell you or make you feel differently.

6.)    It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

Give yourself proper "think time" when things go wrong.

Give yourself proper “think time” when things go wrong.

Let’s face it–mistakes happen.  Mistakes can be disappointing at times, but there is something to be learned in every mistake.  Be open to the idea that you are not perfect and that you will fail at things.  Be ready to face your mistakes, to say you are sorry and to move on from them.  Most importantly, learn from your mistakes.  Life isn’t always happy, but if you are accepting of the fact that mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned, then your perspective of failure will change.  There is nothing wrong with admitting you made a mistake, in fact, it shows strength and helps you grow

Helpful tip: If someone is never willing to admit they made a mistake; that is a red flag!

 

Most of all, I hope that no matter what you always feel loved, cared for and valued.  You deserve the best that this world has to offer.  We have some time before you start dating (a lot of time, you know, like 30 years ;)) but I hope that as you grow I can teach you all of these things so that you learn to value yourself and others.  I hope that you are able to find love like your Daddy and I share.

Love always,

Mommy

Five Years Later

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Today my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary! We had a great day spending time together and doing little “extras” to show that we care.  I know we should do those things all the time, but sometimes (especially when you have a baby!) other things take precedence in our minds.  It’s nice to be pampered a little bit every once in a while!

I gave Tim a balloon bouquet with a card attached to each of the five balloons.  Written in each card was a summary of the major events from each year we have been married.  Surprisingly, I had something to write for each year! Turns out we are not as boring as I thought!

Each balloon has a card attached to it. Written inside each card is a reminder of things that happened that year.

Rachel loved to play with the balloons and of course wanted to help Daddy read each card.  She is one curious little girl!

Rachel helping Daddy read his card.

That evening Tim and I went to a charming restaurant in our town and we both had fabulous meals! It was so nice to be able to talk to each other and enjoy time out just the two of us.  Although, I must admit, the whole time I was wondering how Rachel was doing at home.  I’m still not used to leaving her! I hope that will get easier in time.  Until then we will still try to make “date night” a priority even if it’s just for a short amount of time.

Rachel loves to play with balloons!

In the first five years of marriage we:

-Bought a house and lived together for the first time! (what an experience!)

-Welcomed a sweet 9lb. black lab puppy into our family!

-Bought 2 new cars.

-Dealt with 2 surgeries.

-I graduated from college with a degree in Elem. Education/Early Childhood Ed.

-Lost my father-in-law to cancer.  This is one of our most heartbreaking times we have faced as a couple.  My father in law was a great, great man! Infact, he was the inspiration behind Rachel’s name.  They share the same initials.  

-Faced a few adversities that are far too complicated to write in this blog…

-Both of us started new jobs!

-Became pregnant

-Bought a new house (while currently waiting for our old one to sell! Please keep fingers crossed for us, folks!)

-Had a baby!

-and much, much more!

Wonder what the next 5 will bring!? I can’t wait to find out!