Today Dan and I get to remember this day:
And celebrate the seven years we’ve had together since that day. Each year I put together a slideshow of pictures from our wedding, past anniversaries, and the latest year together. We always enjoy looking back on what we’ve gone through in a year (and six others!) of marriage.
Happy Anniversary Dan! I love you!
Today Dan and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. Dan took a few days off of work, and, as I mentioned in the last post, we have a lot of fun planned. So, I’m not making any promises about when the next update will come. In the meantime, I’d like to celebrate this fourth anniversary by sharing four things my husband does for me, four things every husband should do for his wife.
He loves me.
I have a problem. We call it the “goldfish syndrome” and I’ve read enough marriage books to know I’m not the only wife who has it. No matter how creatively, lavishly, romantically, or frequently Dan tells me he loves me, I forget.
It’s not always that I forget. The problem is really that I stop feeling loved and so I start to believe I’m not. Or sometimes I know that Dan loved me…at one time, but what if it changed? What if he stopped? So Dan has his work set out, but he is constantly, faithfully, patiently reminding me of his love for me.
He leads me.
I really enjoy having Dan as a leader in our home. It has become my second nature to ask his opinion on everything. Picking out fabric for Abby’s quilt? I asked Dan’s opinion. (He picked out the backing) Trying to figure out a new schedule? Ask Dan. Feeling like I’m doing a bad job at keeping a home and raising the girls? Go to Dan and get some input.
But it’s not just when I ask that Dan leads. He leads us in so many areas of our lives.
Spiritually – he reads the Bible to us after our meals and prays with me every night before we go to sleep
Financially – he earns us a living even on days when he would rather do anything but go to work
Emotionally – he holds it together when everything else seems to be falling apart
Decision Making – he always gets the final say, although he appreciates my input, he’s not afraid to make the call
As a Dad – Dan doesn’t just leave me to raise our kiddos. Even when they are less than four pounds and growing in an isolette in the NICU, Dan is a present and loving father (and a really good one too)
There are so many ways Dan is a leader in our home, I couldn’t list them all if I tried.
He helps me.
Maybe if I was perfect I could do it all. Manage and keep a beautiful home (all the time). Teach and train the girls. Feed and diaper the baby. Clean and fold laundry. Plan and cook meals. Keep track of our budget and all our finances. Correspond with friends and relatives. Plan doctor visits, vacations, and dates. Exercise and get plenty of rest. Even while kids are sick, babies aren’t sleeping, and we live in transitional sorts of places.
Since I’m not perfect, I can’t do it all by myself, and even when I seem to be accomplishing a lot, I’m known to have occasional break downs. But Dan doesn’t expect me to be perfect or self-sustaining. He helps me do my job as I help him do his. We’re spouses, but we’re also partners, teammates, and friends.
He spurs me on.
Dan and I first started talking at a time when I was discouraged and far from home, but learning good things from God. He started emailing me once in a while to encourage me, pray for me, and ask what God was doing in my life. My God’s grace, Jesus has stayed the center of our relationship through all of the transitions and changes over the past four (plus!) years. Dan is the one I go to first with my Bible questions, thoughts, and troubles. We pray together and seek God together. He’s my husband, and he’s my leader. He’s my helper and my friend, but he’s also my brother in Christ and always will be.
When Dan and I started planning our wedding, we had no idea what we wanted for a wedding cake. A friend of ours had experience at making cakes and was eager to help us with ours. So, we scheduled a meeting. The four of us all sat down together: my Mom, Dan, the cake-maker, and myself. As we began talking we realized we didn’t really have any idea what we wanted.
“It should be white.”
“Should there be some purple in it?”
“I like ribbons…”
“Flowers are nice”
After only a few minutes we decided to reschedule another meeting after we had come to a more concrete idea of what we actually wanted. Weeks passed and we put very little thought into the cake. Our meeting arrived and we sat down and essentially designed our cake on the spot.
“White. With swirls, I like swirls on the sides.”
“How about some roses?”
“What flavor? What filling?”
In a very half-hazard way, we designed our cake. It was three tiers, all white with swirls on the sides and roses lining the edges. They were small at the top and grew larger at the bottom. There would be a raspberry filling in the middle because that’s what sounded good at the time (and it was conveniently close to purple).
The only part of the cake I was sure about was the cake topper. I had picked it out myself early in our engagement and everyone gave their approval. Apart from the topper, I had almost no idea if the cake would even look decent…or wedding-y.
I remember the first time I saw the cake. It was morning, and sky was perfectly clear as I walked through the parking lot and into the gym where are reception was going to be. It must have been the day of the wedding, so all the decorations were in place. The gym was a sea of white with purple accents and delicate white roses were scattered everywhere. In the middle of the gym was a round table, and there on a small platform, was our wedding cake.
It was perfect. I couldn’t have designed a better cake for our wedding and for us if I had actually known what I was doing. The cake was simple, beautiful, elegant, and it even tasted delicious.
Sometimes our marriage feels a lot like our wedding cake. Dan and I each came into it with our own ideas of what it should look like. We had plans that failed, expectations that have never been fulfilled. There were probably only two major things I was sure of when we got married:
1) Dan was the man I wanted to marry.
2) Jesus was the center of our relationship and we wanted Him to stay there.
I guess Jesus is a bit like our cake topper. He stays, but anything else can change (and most other things have changed). Marriage has held so much that we never expected. School changes. Job changes. Babies…early babies! Those crazy newborn months. And housing changes (and more and more housing changes). Sometimes our whole lives feel a bit disorganized. Sometimes they feel chaotic or downright out of control. But ultimately, Jesus is at the center of our marriage, and God is the one creating and perfecting our story. God is our marriage “cake-maker”.
Often we just see the messy cake-making process. But sometimes we get a little glimpse into the beauty that God is perfecting. This Thursday Dan and I will celebrate four years of marriage. Four years of chaos and four years of trusting Jesus.
We’re going to celebrate by having an extended weekend packed full of fun and friends and a nice, long date. So there will be updates and pictures and lots of sharing up ahead, but for now I’m just reflecting on the goodness of our God and the sweet results a marriage receives when Jesus is at the center.
A few nights ago I was up at three in the morning with Abby. Dan had taken a few days off of work when Abby came home but he went back on Thursday and Friday, and he had asked me to start taking over all of the night time feedings, which was what both of us had planned on happening all along.
But I was so tired. As I sat in the glider with Abby my mind drifted off to all of the couples I have seen lately who have recently become engaged, or married, or celebrated their first wedding anniversaries. According to their Facebook pages their days and nights have been quite full with a lot of dates, love letters, flowers, and special time together.
My mind drifted through Dan and my own early days of marriage, then fast-forwarded to the past few months. We spent almost three long months with Abby in the hospital. At times, it felt like one long nightmare. Three emotional, exhausting, painful, long months. There wasn’t time, energy, or money for flowers or chocolate or date nights. We didn’t even have a free moment to just sit together on our couch.
And now Abby is home. Things are happier and much less crazy. Our house is cleaner than it has been since we moved in. But things are still busy, as any mother of two or more would surely understand. And once again there has been no time, money, or energy for date nights or flowers or love letters…you get the idea.
So as I sat there with Abby, so tired, thinking about all these latest events in my life and others, I was struggling to have a good attitude. I began to pray.
God reminded me of the reasons I married Dan. And I remembered my first joy I at being the one who gets to serve him for the rest of his life. I remembered how Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, and how that’s my main job today. And then God brought to mind a passage from Philippians:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
It occurred to me then, that this is true love. It isn’t always happy, or easy, or pretty. This is how Jesus loved us. He humbled himself, came to earth, suffered, was rejected, and died. If this is God’s great example of love, then I can follow His example in how I love Dan. So even when there’s no money for flowers, no time for date nights, and no energy to stay up a few minutes longer together and talk at night, I can still love Dan like Jesus did.
During the late nights, the hard work, and the times apart I can still demonstrate real love to Dan.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the other stuff.
I know it’s an old lesson, and I’ll probably need to learn it again. But it was a good one I thought worth sharing. I made it through the three AM feeding with a song in my heart and a smile (a sleepy smile, that is) on my face. And a couple of nights later the girls were asleep and Dan and I, for the first time in a long time, had the time and energy to sit together on our couch chatting and looking at the lights on our newly decorated Christmas tree.
During the past week, Dan and I realized a few different things:
1. We had yet to take our belated anniversary date
2. A recent doctor’s visit revealed the first warning sign that Baby 2 could be born early
3. The next four or five weekends are all full (weddings, moving, church events)
We concluded that if we wanted to get in our special date before Baby 2 is born, we were going to have to take it on Saturday. (We realized this on Saturday morning)
After a few quick phone calls, Dan had made arrangements for a family from church to watch Lydia for us all afternoon. This was only the second time that we had left Lydia with anyone ever. And, it was the very first time we’d left Lydia with anyone to go out on a date, just the two of us. Was I excited?
I was excited.
So we dropped the Munchkin off and soon she was happy playing with her friends from church. To be honest, there was a part of me that wondered if it’d feel weird not having her with us. I even wondered if we would run out of things to talk about. When we got back in the car, there was a moment of silence and we realized we hadn’t driven anywhere together without Lydia since she came home from the hospital over two years ago.
Soon, however, we were chatting away and the GPS on Dan’s phone, Waze, was taking us back to downtown Plymouth for our date. We were well on our way to the restaurant when all of a sudden I glaced up to see a ferris wheel in the center of the road! To our surprise, this weekend also happened to be the Plymouth Fall Festival, a relatively huge carnival that takes place right in the heart of Plymouth. So, we ditched our plans to sit by the lovely fountain (because of the extremely loud music, crowds of high school couples, and cheerleaders) and found a cozy little bench just outside of all the activity.
On our way to this bench, we noticed some obscenely large stuffed animals, and kids abducting aliens (a funny twist you don’t often hear about, we thought). Anyway, we enjoyed just sitting on a bench, not carrying a diaper bag, not chasing a toddler, free to chat away for more than three minutes without interruption.
Don’t get me wrong. We love Lydia. We love having her around. We love chasing her around. And we get plenty of time to talk when she’s napping, in bed, in the car, or during meal times. But, well, we loved this too.
Eventually we decided to head over to our chosen restaurant, a highly recommended Italian place. We opted to sit inside to escape the Festival noises, and enjoyed a much longer and much more expensive dinner than we usually eat. Everything was delicious. And I particularly enjoyed sitting and waiting for the waiter to bring the bill because that meant I wasn’t trying to entertain a Munchkin with a much shorter attention span than her parents.
After dinner, Dan offered to buy me a frozen lemonade or other treat of my choice. Having spent a lot of money already, I opted for our favorite not too expensive Starbucks drink (I’ll tell you all what that is in a later post). There are three flavors to choose from and (don’t get weirded out), the green one actually tastes the best.
Our two-hour parking limit was about to run out, so we drove back to a park near the home where Lydia was having the time of her life without us. (For someone who never gets left with anyone, separation anxiety is definitely not a problem for her) We walked a little, and found a picnic table where some child had forgotten his or her stuffed animals. Both of us found it humorous that even without the Munchkin, we were hanging out at a playground.
So we wrapped up our date chatting away, and sitting in the quiet, enjoying some uninterrupted time together as the sun was just starting to sink in the sky, making everything glow in a way that reflected the happiness of the day. Our third anniversary date was belated, and it wasn’t exactly what we’d planned, but it was absolutely perfect.
Today Dan and I are celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary. So, in celebration mode, I thought I’d share 10 things I’ve learned in 3 years of marriage. (photo credit: Dan Carlson)
1. Respect is love
During our first months of marriage, Dan and I read a book together called Love and Respect. Through that book and our premarital counseling, I learned that the best way I can love Dan is by respecting him. What does that look like for us? (I’m all about the practical application) Well, Dan’s a visionary sort of fellow. So that means when he comes home and tells me his latest brilliant idea (that I may or may not think is brilliant), I don’t squash him like a bug! I listen and support his ideas, because I know I have a trustworthy husband who won’t put us into bankruptcy following some crazy idea he had during his lunch hour.
I can’t imagine any feeling better than the feeling of being loved, but for Dan, it’s the feeling of being respected. So, I can’t say I completely understand, but it really does work.
2. Physical exercise is to Dan what sleep is to a pregnant Justine
This is one I just figured out in recent months. For most of my pregnancy I’ve required a nap-a-day. Ok, so I can go one day without a nap and be alright. But give me two days in a row and I turn into a basket case. I just need the rest.
I used to get annoyed at how much Dan enjoyed exercise. Every single day he wanted to go lift weights or run or play a sport. When he started working full time, I realized that he starts to go crazy if he doesn’t get his exercise. So, I finally figured out that it’s not something to resent. I need my sleep and Dan graciously guards my naptimes. In turn, I’m learning to guard his exercise time.
3. Efficiency makes us a happy couple
Because Dan and I have one car, we usually do all of our grocery shopping on the weekends. For one semester, we had an arrangement where Dan was able to work out while Lydia and I did the shopping. In fact, Dan was so busy that semester that we had to do it that way. When the semester was over, I was thrilled to be able to have that shopping time with Dan once again. However, much to my disappointment, we seemed to get frustrated with each other during every single shopping trip. I figured out that Dan just felt like shopping was taking way longer than it should (even though it always took me that long). So, I decided to change things.
I started organizing my list in the order of the store aisles. We have a very particular route we take through each store now, every single time. On top of that, I planned far enough ahead so that we weren’t shopping at three stores in one weekend. I rotated every other week for two of the stores and bought things ahead of time.
Then Dan developed Super Shopper. It’s a simple, yet wonderful invention. I have an excel sheet where I keep a database of everything we’ve bought from three different stores. In the excel file, I list the items in order of our in-store route. When I make my grocery list (in totally random order), I run the program, and it automatically sorts my list by store and puts the items in the correct order for each store. This ingenious program took my grocery planning from over an hour to just minutes a week.
Efficiency saves me time during the week doing a chore I don’t enjoy much, it saves us time on the weekends so we can get in and out of stores crazy-fast, and it saves unnecessary tension and frustration between the two of us.
4. Love is doing what Dan loves
When we were first married, I would always try to make Thursday nights (our “date nights”) special by cooking some elaborate meal. Finally I figured out that Dan wasn’t big on elaborate meals. He much rather would have tacos or meat and potatoes than anything gourmet, and those things were easier for me to cook! Likewise, for my birthday a couple years ago I planned an elaborate surprise date night where we dressed up and ate a fancy meal in our apartment which I had decorated to look like a fancy private restaurant. It was fun, but afterwards I talked to Dan and found out his dream date with me would be to go to a Tigers game.
So I have learned and am learning, to love Dan by doing what he loves, not just what I love.
5. Love is loving what Dan loves
Like my last point, I have learned to love what Dan loves, even if it’s not necessarily my “cup of tea”. This is another recent lesson that I remember journaling about last anniversary. Dan was on a kick where he read the news every day and would come home and talk to me about it. I thought it was boring. Finally I realized we would both enjoy our dinners together much more if I actually made an effort to care about what he was telling me. Later the conversations switched from news to business ideas and more recently it’s been a lot of talk about Dan’s career. It’s not annoying anymore. I’m thankful that I have a husband who trusts me enough to tell me what’s on his mind, and I don’t ever want to risk shutting that out because the topic isn’t one I would have chosen on my own.
6. Research is in the job description
After Dan and I were married, I had one semester of college left. Once that semester ended, I became a full-time homemaker. Through some well suggested reading from ladies at church, I learned that being a homemaker is a real job and should be treated like one. Dan and I always joke that stay-at-home-moms sit at home all day eating bon bons. Then Dan tells me that I’m the best stay-at-home-mom because I don’t just eat the bon bons, I make them!
Joking aside, there is plenty to do around the home to stay busy and part of that job (a big part in my case) has been research: nutrition, pregnancy, parenting, budgeting, cleaning…the list could go on! Since I am a steward of my home, I want to make sure I’m doing my job well, not just going with the flow.
7. It’s ok to take a nap
That last point being said, I was a pretty driven homemaker and new mommy after Lydia was born. I felt like it would be lazy for me to take a break. After all, Dan doesn’t take a nap in the middle his work day. However, Dan also isn’t on call 24/7!
I’ve learned to take time out of the day to nap, rest, or at least relax. It makes for a happy wife when Dan gets home, which makes him a happier husband.
8. Having a preemie is more stressful than taking 19 credits at UofM any day
Dan and I don’t really fight. Our “fights” involve my being super sad and Dan being kind of distant until we can reconcile. But we had never had any of even these fights until Lydia was born. Through friendship, dating, engagement, wedding planning, and being married and in school full time we didn’t fight. When we got married, I had to take a bus every day to get to campus and stay until evening. We were super busy, super poor, and super happy.
The most stressful period of my life was my 19 credit semester at the University of Michigan, in engineering mind you! I would go home in tears regularly because I was so overworked and sleep-deprived.
But none of that comes even close to comparing with Lydia’s birth. For six weeks we dealt with postpartum emotions, going home every night without our baby, not getting enough food or rest, and to top it off, we had moved the weekend Lydia was born and hadn’t had a chance to unpack. That is when we had our first “fights”. (The best gift anyone ever gave me was when Dan’s parents and grandparents came home and completely moved us in about a week after Lydia was born)
Ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t handle stress well, I would advise you to never have a preemie. That being said, God helped us through that hard time and we made it and are stronger for it. And, I’m extra grateful to have a wonderful husband who did go through all of that with me, and who stayed with me and even tells me that he still likes me in spite of it all!
9. I will always love to hold his hand
When we were dating, Dan and I decided not to touch each other at all until we were engaged. Sure enough, when Dan proposed, I said yes, and he asked if he could put the ring on my hand. Many nights just before we fall asleep, Dan reaches over for my hand. Or while we are riding in the car, he’ll put his hand out to hold mine. Maybe I’m just a hand-holding sort of person, or maybe because of our history, it still always makes me grin.
10. It’s just better together
Each year I sit back and think to myself, “What is my favorite part of being married?” The answer has always been, “No more goodbyes!”. I just love being together every single day. Three years in and I still tell Dan I’ll miss him when he goes away to work, I still want to sit and watch when he plays sports, and I still look forward to Friday nights when Dan comes home and I get him for the whole weekend. Things just go better when we can be together.
Happy Anniversary, Love! It’s been three wonderful years, and I’m looking forward to many, many more.
Last week was a rough one for me. Three days of attempted potty training left me behind on laundry, cleaning, and everything else. On top of that, Baby #2 has been gifting us with lots of hormones that make Mommy very emotional. So it was a long, tiring, emotional week.
My sweet husband wanted to do something special for me this weekend and hatched some secret plans while I was getting ready for the day on Saturday. We spent the whole morning out grocery shopping, and came home to a hurried lunch. Afterward, we got back in the car to go visit some friends at the hospital who had a baby on Friday.
Now, to understand my surprise and Dan’s enjoyment of this part of the day, you have to know a little bit about me and directions. I’m not terrible with directions, I just don’t pay attention. If I drive somewhere or see directions on a map or written down, I can get to where I need to go. Mostly though, I just depend on GUPS (which is what we call our GPS). Dan is great with directions and is super independent on top of that, so he would rather get somewhere on his own than use a GPS anyway. So, for that reason and a few others, Dan is the primary driver in our household. And I happily keep him company from my passenger seat, paying little to no attention to where we are going or how we are getting there.
This brought Dan much delight as we headed to the hospital, passed the hospital exit and kept on going, took a different exit, pulled into a parking lot, and stopped. I thought we were just turning around. So, when Dan asked, “Do you want a brownie?” I was a little confused. Of course, I said, “yes”, because I’ve been craving brownies for the past few weeks, but didn’t understand why he was asking me this, now, and why he parked in the parking lot that wasn’t the hospital. Dan practically had to explain what was going on before I figured out that he has planned to take me to Zingerman’s Bakehouse to get me one of the best brownies in Ann Arbor (according to Google) and spend a little time on a mini-dessert-date before going to visit our friends and their new baby at the hospital. Oh.
Not all plans work out the way we expect, though, and we didn’t actually have time to do anything but buy the brownie and get back in the car. Oh well. I saved it and figured we could eat it together after Lydia went to bed. We visited our friends, the day ended far too quickly, and we tucked Lydia in for the night. We settled down in the living room and shared our brownie and I got ready for a nice long talk. Minutes later, Dan fell asleep and I was left alone on the couch feeling pouty and miserable. Other than the super-delicous brownie, our attempts a date has completely failed (in my late-night-pregnancy-induced-emotional-opinion)
By Sunday, I was able to move beyond my disappointment and enjoy the day. We didn’t get Lydia tucked in to bed until almost 9:00 and sat down to watch just an inning or two of baseball before going to bed early ourselves.
But then we started talking. And somehow some random questions about baseball and the related commercials turned into our sharing memories from elementary school and high school. After telling stories we’d never told each other before, we marveled at how it was that we ever ended up together. We were SO different. It was one of those happy and confirming moments when you realize that God had worked something out in a way contrary to logical expectation or even our own best plans. An “inning or two” turned into one hour turned which turned into two, and somewhere along there we turned the baseball off anyway. Around midnight we decided that it was far past our bed times.
Somewhere during that conversation I thought to myself,” I feel like we’re on a date”, just like some of the ones when we were getting to know each other before we were married. Only this was better because at the end we got to pray together and go to sleep and wake up, all without having to say goodbye.
And so, after a long week, and a somewhat failed date-attempt on Dan’s part (except for the successful surprise and the delicious brownie) God blessed us with our own little date-night, unexpected and unplanned. And we both walked away thinking, “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow” but also “We should do this more”. And it’s moments like these that I can’t help but smile, knowing in my head and in my heart that God really is a sweet Father who loves to give us good gifts.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.