Marriage Has Its Seasons

vego

We’re going to Vegas baby!

Why?

Because my soul needs refreshing.

And so does my marriage.

Jon and I haven’t been on a vacation since our honeymoon, so during his Spring Break we are going to hit the road and drive into the desert in search if the bright lights and some quality time together.

vegas trip

One thing that brought me and Jon together was our spontaneity.  I loved to surprise him with unexpected visits or gifts.  He liked to surprise me with outings to try new foods or hike new hills.  When we were dating, I remember surprising him by detailing his car and cleaning his kitchen just to showcase my wifey-ness and one time, before it was appropriate, we took off with two friends at 2 a.m. after a Denny’s hang out and drove to Santa Barbara just to watch the sun rise.  Much of our dating consisted of trying new things together and enjoying random adventures in the California sun.

Our first date was a bike ride where, for the first time in my life, I braked suddenly and flipped myself over the handlebars and onto the pavement.  Jon and I both laugh about it now because at the time I put on a brave face and acted like it was no big deal, but we know that if the same thing happened now, I would be crying and insist on being carried back to the car.

I think we fell in love in the midst of doing crazy things to impress the other one and pushing boundaries just to prove that we were fun and that the other one needn’t look elsewhere for adventure and excitement.

However in the midst of babies, work, school and a growing pile of responsibility and stress, much of our spontaneity has been snuffed out and as a result, so has an important part of our relationship.  Before we had Cameron, I read books that warned about the dryness that can inhabit a marriage after babies come.  I read those chapters with a smirk because our love was fierce and fragrant.

Don’t get me wrong: I am still very much in love with my husband.  We are committed to each other and even when we quarrel, we know deep in our hearts that it will get worked out.  I have an adoration for that man that I didn’t know possible and I have a growing respect for him as I see him sacrifice his entire life right now to get through school so that he can provide for our family the way I know he wants to.  When we got married, we said vows and I think because of the grace of God, those vows were allowed to seep deep within us and caused our DNA to intertwine like tree roots so that when I sin against him, I feel as though I’m sinning against myself.  I have an assurance, strong as blood, that we will never be separated  lest death be the culprit.  When I look back on our season of dating I know, because it is etched into my heart, that he is God’s best for me so I needn’t look elsewhere because I know I would never find another who would compare.

But marriage has it’s seasons.  It does for everyone, which is why I am not sharing something shocking, but rather something that any married person could read and nod their head to and say, “Oh yes, there are seasons.”

Right now our season is not the newlywed bliss we grew accustomed to, full of spur of the moment dates and endless late nights spent laughing and dreaming about what our children might someday look like.  It is one of learning to love not based superficial motives, but one of learning to love the other one simply because they need it and we want to give it regardless of what we are getting in return.

On a daily basis, we get an hour or two in the evenings to interact.  When Jon gets home from work we attempt to chat about our days while Jon has his play time with Cameron and while I finish dinner.  Then one of us gives Cameron a bath and I put the boy to bed.  After which Jon hits the books and sits down at his laptop until the work is done.  Sometimes it’s 11 p.m. and sometimes it’s 2 a.m. when he comes crawling into bed.  Somewhere around 10 p.m. I announce my departure so Jon can walk me upstairs and tuck me in.

When we were engaged, Jon would walk me home to my doorstep and we would spend ten minutes dragging out our goodbyes and arguing about who should leave first.  Then I would run upstairs to my room, jump into bed and continue to text him until my fingers finally came to a stop and I fell fast asleep mid text.  Some nights now I text him from upstairs as I’m falling asleep too…

Since he has one year left of school (a midst working full time, mind you), we are having to accept the current circumstances and do our best to each be open to handling more than we would sometimes like to.

But since Jon’s Spring Break is coming, we have decided to do something spontaneous because our souls need it and because we want to experience the fun and the spontaneity in our relationship once again.  I anticipate, and hope that later on in life, we will be that old couple who still enjoys doing crazy things together in the name of love.

vegas triiiip

So we chose Vegas.  I want to go and see all the crazy sights there are to see, hang out for a week uninterrupted by homework and then come home more content and with a renewed strength of heart to carry on loving my man fiercely as he goes out everyday to fight his battles.  I have never really been in a fight, but I will fight anyone who dares to challenge the fact that my husband is the bravest, most hard working man that there is!  No one loves his family like he does…

So, Vegas here we come!  We’re expecting you’ll take good care of us.  We need a little crazy in our lives (but before 10 p.m. because regardless of location, our baby still wakes up early).

4 Categories of Relationships

One of my co-workers is also the Family and Marriage Pastor at his church so occasionally, he will speak on a Sunday.  Last week, while he was still preparing his message, he shared the main points of his sermon with me.  The sermon was to be about relationships.  He said that so many times in relationships it’s not that we don’t know what we should do, it’s that we don’t do it.

All of us, whether we actually read our Bible regularly or not, know we are to be loving, kind, forgiving, and so on.  But much of the time, we choose not to do the right thing when it comes to relationships with people in our lives.

Erin, meet Conviction.  Conviction, why don’t you spend some time with Miss Erin here.

So, I have been challenged since last week, as I’ve continued to think about what he shared.  It’s such a simple message, but I think one that can always become extremely complex when we actually apply it to the context of our lives.

My coworker also shared with me that every relationship we have can be put into one of four categories:

Damage               Repair               Maintain               Grow

So last week I wrote out these category headings and put the name of every significant person in my life under one of them.  It was a helpful visual to see where many of my relationships were actually at.  I was encouraged to see how some relationships had made it into better categories over time and sad to admit to myself that some could be in different categories if only I was more willing to change and act on what I already know to be right.

So how about you: which category would you put your relationships in?  How about your relationship with God?  Your spouse?  Your kids?  Parents?  Siblings?  Friends?  Church family?  Extended family?  Neighbors?  Co-workers?  Pets?

Haha just kidding, maybe not pets.  But speaking of pets, I did have another incredibly vivid dream last night that involved me saving and caring for a baby chicken.  Pregnancy dreams are so weird.

Why Do Men Wait?

The other night I was watching The Bachelorette.  Yes, I do in fact still like that show.  Whether it’s realistic or not, it’s exciting to watch people experience the thrills of falling in love.  Of course, it would be better if the relationships tended to work out and turned into strong, healthy marriages – most times they do not – but nonetheless the mysterious, unscripted, romantic feelings that cause people cast all fear aside in the hopes of attaining lifelong love is good TV if you ask me!  Ever notice how love always has a way of getting you to root for it?  It’s impossible to watch a show like The Bachelorette, or any romantic comedy for that matter, without hoping that in the end, love will find a way.  Okay, so this is not a plug for The Bachelorette, I’m getting to my point…

The other night as I was watching this show I noticed something peculiar.  I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to make this observation, but I noticed that almost all of the men who went on this show were between 27 and 35 years old, accomplished in whatever field or industry they worked in and surprisingly, most of them had only very recently opened up to the idea of pursuing a future and a family with someone.  Throughout the show, many of the guys made references to how they’d spent most of their 20’s in meaningless, shallow relationships or in relationships that turned out to be dead ends.  And now, as they transitioned into their 30’s, their desire to settle down finally seemed to kick in.  They finally got serious about taking on the role and responsibility of being a one-woman family man.

The funny thing: these days in our culture, this late-blooming for men seems normal.  I mean, who would want to marry a man before he’s proven to be successful in his career, right?  Wrong!  My friend Christina Hutchison wrote a very insightful blog post about her  thoughts and experience as a 30 year old single, Christian woman who desires to be married.  I thought her perspective was well-spoken and it made me think about my own experience as a married woman as well.

Currently, I am 24, married and scheduled to have a baby sometime in January of 2012… and I feel really young!  At the doctors office I look younger than most of the other pregnant women I see and I don’t know a ton of other women my age who are having babies yet.  Many, in fact, are still waiting to be married.  I don’t feel like I’m too young to start a family, but according to most of what I see around me in the culture and in the media, I’m practically throwing away the best years of my life!  Halle Berry had her first child at age 41.  Selma Hayek, same age.  Julianne Moore, 41.  Nicole Kidman, yep, you guessed it,  41.  Susan Sarandon, 43.  Madonna 38.  Of course there are lots of examples of female celebrities having babies at a younger age too…but examples like Britney Spears and Jamie Lynn Spears make it look so…well, traumatic and uncool.  And the young moms that still manage to appear sleek and stylish have nannies, so of course they are still able to continue triumphing in their careers with a few soccer games on the side.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with women having babies at an older age, it’s just that the trend in Hollywood seems to lean so far in that direction.  It’s the “live your life, then start a family” mentality versus the “family is life” mentality.

Here are the stats:

Fewer people are getting married.  For the last 40 years, marriage rates have been gradually decreasing.  Some of this is attributed to people waiting longer to get married.  The average age of marriage in the United States is currently around 26 and 28 for women and men respectively.  Another factor is that more people are choosing to live together, some instead of getting married, and some as a prelude to marriage.  In fact, 60% of Americans in first marriages now live together with their partner before getting married. (source: eharmony labs)

The average age of first-time mothers in the United States has been rising steadily over the past four decades — up from 21.4 in 1970 to a little over 25 in 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics reports.  According to the study, more than a third of first-time moms in the U.S. are over 30 when they have their first child.  (These are the numbers from a 2006 study.  After snooping around online, it seems that the 2006 study provides the most recent statistics on this topic.  As you can imagine, the average age of first time mothers has likely risen since then as well).

My friend Christina proposed that this delay in marriage may be due to a culture shift where men simply do not take the initiative to pursue women until they find themselves financially stable and able to provide.  While this reason may amount to part of the delay in marriages, quite possibly the other side of the story is that many women also do not consider marriage as a feasible option while they themselves are in school or trying to get their careers off the ground.  The feminist, “independence rules!” mentality may have scared men off.  Maybe men backed off because so many women kept telling them that the last thing they wanted was to settle down and become a housewife before they’d had their chance to live a little.  What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Especially for people who pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, marriage during college usually means that mom and dad stop paying for tuition.  Ouch!  Tens of thousands of dollars of debt seems like a pretty good reason to postpone getting hitched I suppose.

So while I think the cultural shift may hold both men and women responsible for this delay in marriage, I very much appreciated Christina’s insightful take on the whole issue.  She’s awesome!  Check out her blog, He makes all things new, to see what she had to say.

As for those who are willing to make a change in geographic location in hopes of finding marital bliss, Idaho has the lowest median age for first marriages, followed by Kansas, Arkansas, Utah and Oklahoma.  Potatoes, corn and long skirts anyone?

In Love With Love

Ever since yesterday when I mentioned that my one year wedding anniversary is coming up at the end of this month, I can’t seem to get my wedding, my husband and my anniversary off my brain.  However, it’s not a bad problem to have.  I like being sentimental and I’m thankful that the human race has figured out ways to celebrate mile-markers and significant events – helps you appreciate what you have.

So this morning I pulled out “The Book” that sits on Jon’s bedside table.  It’s a black leather journal I started writing to my future husband a couple months before I moved to San Luis Obispo.  For a while, the entries were written to that anonymous someone and eventually they started beginning with “Jon Dear,” once I was confident that Jon was the person I would marry.  I had to switch around the words because Dear John letters were not something I wanted to write.

And actually, I’m glad it all worked out because I think I jumped the gun and started writing the entries to Jon after only knowing him about 4 months.  Oops!  I ended up giving him the journal at a significant point in our relationship and I even included one passage out of the journal in my wedding vows.

This is the first picture we ever had taken together at the California Mid State Fair in 2008.  We were trying to look over the wall to catch a glimpse of Alan Jackson performing.  I wasn’t a big Alan Jackson fan at that point, but I did a good job of pretending. 

So with our anniversary coming up I decided to pull out the journal again and make an entry about year one of marriage.  My plan is to keep making entries at least once a year as long as I’m alive because I don’t think you can ever write enough love letters to your sweetie.

Actually, the inspiration for this journal initially came from reading the beautiful and compelling book by Elizabeth Elliot called Passion and Purity.  I read her book in college and was captivated by the unfolding love story between her and her husband-to-be who spent years and years only communicating through letters in the mail until the Lord’s timing was clear.  It’s probably one of the most romantic and moving books I’ve ever read, along with the novel Redeeming Love.

So this week I’ll be thinking about what I want to express to Jon in my year-one entry.  My goal is  to make him cry tears of joy, even though that’s pretty unlikely.

Along these same lines, I cannot wait to write to my children.  I’ve heard about women writing down a “birth story” for each child that they read to them each year on their birthdays.  It’s a story about the events leading up to that child’s grand entrance into the world.   How sweet is that?  A reminder of how much you were loved and adored even before you did anything, accomplished anything, or became anything.  You were loved just for being you!

I think birth stories are a great display of God’s love because whether our mothers wrote them down or not, God has each of our birth stories recorded.  Everything is significant to him and not only does he remember our birth, but he remembers when he formed us, why he formed us and he knows the days ahead.

Bah!  Anyway I gotta cut this post short or I’m gonna end up with baby fever again!!!

Somethin’ women like about a pick-up mannn

When I met Jon he owned twelve pairs of the same Levi blue jeans, lots of white and random t-shirts, worn in brown work boots and he always wore the same camo baseball cap.  He drove a big black pick-up truck and listened to country music.  He liked fishing, camping and being outdoors.  And the guy could BBQ like it was nobody’s business.  It was practically love at first sight.

Over the past couple years he’s traded in most of his country clothing and all but one pair of his Levis have been replaced by Banana Republic or Express denim.  A lot of it has been influenced by me, but not all of it.  Some of the change has simply been for practical reasons having to do with the fact that we don’t live in the country, our apartment complex has no yard to work in or maintain, and sadly for Jon he has no garage to play in.  Plus we both currently work in business-casual office buildings.  I guess you tend to dress for your surroundings.

But today Jon spent the afternoon working on the brakes of our car.  And let me tell you, there is something just so incredibly attractive about a man who can get his hands dirty and fix stuff.  I’m not necessarily a country bumpkin myself, but I think that will always be my favorite side of Jon: when he’s dressed down, probably covered in dirt and sweat and working on some kind of “man-project.”  Or when we go exploring in the outdoors together.  I really like that too.

How in the world did I win the Man-Lotto? 

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Printable Alphabet Bunting

My FAVORITE craft idea right now are these alphabet letters from Ruffled blog.

These downloads are absolutely FREE and they work for so many occasions!  I just made a banner for a friend who recently had a baby and I made one that says “Happy Easter” for the pancake breakfast I’m throwing tomorrow morning.  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to share about them because I kind of like having some crafty secret-weapons, but hey, it’s nice to share!

For Great Grandma Alice

This morning at 2:30am my great grandmother Alice Lockhert passed away at 100 years old.  Despite her age, she lived in her own home until the final few days of her life.  She loved oil painting, gardening, her family and since she never owned a computer, the highlight of her day was often when the mailman stopped by and delivered her letters and the stacks of catalogs that she liked to order. 

It was a sort of ongoing joke in my family about how many stamps she went through per month.  She loved to send money to any and every organization that sent her postcards asking for donations.  Even to the society that takes care of orphan cats.  Is that even a real organization? I dont’ know, but I think she sent them money anyway…  However, the comedic part of her generosity was that in reality it was my grandparent’s money that she was so-generously giving away.  So they weren’t always too keen on her giving habits, even though I’m sure they felt bad for all the orphaned kittens around the world too.

I have a lot of special memories of my great grandma Alice.  Most of which are wrapped up in humor considering that I only knew her during her late 80’s and beyond;  A time when people tend to get a little “funny.”

So in honor of great grandma Alice, I’ll share a few of my favorite memories with you: 

She didn’t hear well, so if I wanted to tell her something I had to yell it to her.  That’s something  I never got comfortable doing.

She also didn’t speak very clearly because of her old, worn-out vocal chords so I have many memories of nodding and smiling when I had no idea what she was saying.  A good life-skill and ability that has helped me as I pursue a career in  Public Relations! 

She made cookies every year for Christmas that were too rock solid to eat. 

One time I watched Wheel of Fortune with her at the highest volume setting on the TV. 

For a reason I will probably never know, she had a white porceline toilet in her backyard that she had peculiarly planted flowers in.  I guess that’s old school DIY for ya!       

She had gorgeous ice-blue colored eyes and whenever she kissed me goodbye her bright lipstick stuck to my cheeks. 

Every single year she would mix up my birthday with my sisters.  So I always got a birthday card in March and Devan always got mine in September.

Whenever I visited I would ask to see her oil paintings that hung in a spare bedroom in her house.  She didn’t paint very much anymore during the time I knew her, but I always liked to look at them even if they always were the same paintings.

One time I drove her home after a Thanksgiving dinner and she spent the ride across town telling me about how she personally never learned to drive and what a privelage it was that I had that opportunity.

And probably my favorite collection of memories of my great grandma Alice is our shared love for writing.  Because of the difficulty I had hearing her and speaking to her, we developed a special friendship through written letters and the sharing of our writing.  Although her handwriting was sometimes just as hard to interpret as her speech, her letters were fun to read because they became cases of deciphering written code.  Sometimes a simple card took me thirty minutes to figure out, but it was always well worth it.

Most times she wrote about her gardening and the weather, but other times she shared with me about how she met her husband and how she developed a relationship with the Lord.  Writing back and forth about Jesus became something that occured often and she would always encourage me to stay strong in my faith.   

She wrote poems that displayed her spunk, love of life and sometimes her stubbornness.  Apparently after being in a car accident and experiencing whiplash she was given pain medication for many years.  Her poetry and use of sarcasm displayed her feelings of dislike towards the pills and how they made her feel.   I’m thankful to my aunt Susan who made copies of her writings and put them together in a binder that I was given at her 100th birthday party earlier in February; something I will always cherish. 

And in return I would write her back telling her about my big move to California, informing her that I had met the man I would marry and letting her know about how my job was going.  When I wrote a story or a poem that I was particularly proud of I would make sure to print it out and mail it to her also. 

I like to think that my love for writing was at least in part influenced by her.  Maybe she passed along a creative gene that I was blessed enough to inherit. 

Whatever the case, I carry happy, loving memories of Alice.  She was a strong woman of faith and I hope to carry on the family tradition.

Mother’s Day Ideas

Mother’s Day is about a month away, which for me, means that it’s time to begin thinking about what I’d like to do for my mom this year.  I don’t know about you, but last minute gits are never as meaningful or fun as well thought out in advance gifts that I get to put a little heart and craftiness into.

However, my mom is usually happiest with a pedicure gift certificate or some dark chocolate, so after some contemplating I may end up giving her one of the “usuals.”  But nonetheless, its fun to think about some new crafts that I can do.  Hope this helps inspire you! 

Doily Wall Art

I really like this doily wall art idea, especially if your mother or grandmother has a doily that they wanted to preserve.  With a little fabric dye from Michael’s you could even dye your own into a fun color and create a meaningful piece of family history.

Fabric Flower Collage

This project looked fun and fairly simple overall.  I really like simple. 

 

Chalkboard Flower Vase

I made chalkboards for the women in my family last Christamas by buying cute frames, then covering the glass with chalkboard paint.  However, for Mother’s Day I love this idea of making Chalkboard Flower Vases (or pencil holders, or kitchen spoon holders, etc.).  This gift is cute and something that mom can decorate to fit any holiday or occasion. 

Decorative Mirror

I like the idea of taking something that your mom may collect (such as sea shells, bottle caps, ticket stubs, old jewelry, pictures you drew as a kid, etc.) and making it into a piece of art.  My mom likes to cut out funny cartoons from the newspaper so maybe I can make her a magnetic board so she can display them fashionably.  All you need for this project is a sheet of steal and some paint or fabric.

Mosaic Garden Stepping Stone 

And for those of you who aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves and deal with some concrete mix, you can create a mosaic garden stepping stone.  Whether you personalize it or just make a fun pattern these are great gifts for a mom who likes to spend time outside in her backyard or in her garden. 

Happy creating!