marriage: something better and something new.

Jake and I love when the girls go to bed.

We also love when they’re awake (you know, most days), but there’s a certain relief in knowing that you’re not imminently needed for a few hours (until, of course, a kid wakes up screaming because her fan isn’t close enough to make her blanket “really, really cold”). There’s a satisfaction in telling a story with fewer than twelve interruptions and a sense of accomplishment that you made it through the chaos and demands of another day.

Jake and I used to leave our house a lot. We loved to go out for dinner or take long walks after dark. We’d see movies in theaters, play cards at Starbucks, and take drives with no particular end destination in mind.

Now, 7:00 rolls around, and we’re knee deep in toothpaste, bedtime stories, and toddler negotiations. And, then, once both girls are asleep, we’re usually homebound. The late night spontaneity we used to enjoy together is long gone and has been replaced by the surprise of what the other person will choose on Netflix.

Let me tell you something, though: This is the most fun I’ve had being married to Jake.225447_503883083295_2516_nI used to get pretty anxious thinking about moving to Ohio and away from the family and community we had filled our life with. And in those moments when it felt like it was going to be too much and too lonely, I would remember that I wasn’t going alone. I was going with Jake.

Before we had any friends here, we had each other, and as I think about how hard our eighth year of marriage was in terms of transitions and change, I’m equally reminded of how easy it has become being married to Jake.

Of course it’s still work. Of course we still come up short at times. And of course we still drive each other crazy at least once every day (Jake: “Why would I unpack and move my suitcase from the middle of the room when I’m just going to need it again in three weeks?”).

But here we are, 8 years in, and still happy we’re doing this thing together.

I read in this really great book by Donald Miller¹ recently that relationships are teleological–that they’re going somewhere. Miller went on to say that “If you’re coasting, you’re going down hill. Unless [you’re] practicing, [you’re] getting worse. We can fall into reactionary patterns in relationships rather than understanding they’re things we build and nurture and grow.”

Eight years ago, I made a choice to enter into this marriage relationship with Jake, but I never got a choice as to whether or not it will move forward–it’s going somewhere regardless of the effort I put forth. The ongoing choice, then, is whether or not I want to continue to build and nurture and grow what we have together into something beautiful.Relationships are teleological. They're all going somewhere and they're turning us into something, hopefully something , someth.jpgI think it would be easy to stop working at it now that kids are in the mix. To take that time when the girls are sleeping only for myself because “I deserve it.” To stop talking to Jake about real and important things because I’m too tired. To stay married but not really be friends.

And that’s what I’m really thankful for after these eight years: That we’re better friends now than we were when we started off on this life together. Sure, it looks more like rocking chairs on the front porch and late night, take-out dinner dates at our kitchen table after the girls are in bed, but that’s time I wouldn’t have any other way.

Time that, I think, is turning our marriage into something better and something new each day.

¹ Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy (2015)

my kids’ birthdays are for me too.

I tend to live a little too deeply in the anticipation of change, so as such, I’ve never been one to let “last moments” slip through my fingertips. I like to stand in empty houses before I leave them for the last time and always acknowledge (internally, at least) my final moments before imminent change takes place.

On Saturday, I put Lily to bed a two-year-old, and she woke me up the next morning with a new age attached to her name.jake and girlsWhen Lily was seven months old, we hit New Year’s Eve, and when I put her to bed that night, I held her a little longer than usual because I knew I’d never get to hold her in the year she was born again. The night I thought I was in labor with Norah, I held her a little longer than usual because I wanted to live a few more minutes in what I thought might be the last moments just the two of us. The night before we moved to Ohio, I held her a little longer than usual because it was the last time I would stand in something familiar before everything I knew would be uprooted on me.

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was happy to put Lily to bed her last night as a two-year-old. Or that I held her a little longer than usual.

I realized this week that I love to breathe in these quiet moments–exist as a student of what they have to teach me. The moments (which I know are numbered) when Lily will snuggle in close to me before bed. When I can stop in the twilight hours of a birthday eve and remember the actual birth day–those still frames in my mind before and after the instant when everything changed.jake and lilyI decided this year that my kids’ birthdays are as much for me as they are for them. While I certainly love celebrating them and loving them for their own day, this year I felt the importance of acknowledging how their years have impacted my own.

As I soaked up those last moments with my two-year-old, I was reminded that even though these toddler years can be draining, they have made me into a better version of the person I was three years ago. Although she doesn’t know it yet, Lily (and Norah, too) has and will continue to help refine my character.

As I let her life wash over me on the night before three–all that we have gone through, all that we have dealt with, all that she has experienced in her days so far– I remembered the whole of who she is. And it was in those moments that I found gratitude for how deeply she has changed me to my core as well as perspective as I step foot into all that I’m sure year three will throw at us. We will all be changed, no doubt. And we will all be better because of it.lily 3So, as agonizing as those last moments can be for me (I saw my parents’ empty house for the last time via FaceTime, and instantly lost it, for crying out loud), I’m grateful to have them when I do. My inner monologue is, too. I mean, I guess it’s good to give her something to obsess over even in those quiet moments, right?