a lighter, a broomstick, and an anniversary.

A few nights ago, Jake and I climbed into bed only to realize the monitor in Sawyer’s room had gotten flipped off earlier in the day.

Now, this is pretty boring backstory, but it’s worth noting that said monitor is mounted in the back corner of the crib. And, it would be super easy to reach over the top of the crib to push the power button if Sawyer didn’t insist on sleeping, instead, in the pack n’ play which is set up right next to the crib. Really, the only way to get a hand on the monitor (while the baby sleeps) is to climb stealthily into the crib.

Jake: “How am I supposed to turn it back on without waking him up?”
Me: “I don’t know.”

*Three minutes pass*

Jake: I used a lighter and a broomstick.

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It’s a little known fact that the summer before Jake and I started dating, we wrote letters to each other while he was in Kansas and I was in Iowa. We exchanged about a letter a week as, really, our only means of communication because Jake didn’t have a cell phone at the time and I wasn’t too keen on calling his home phone where the majority of his brothers (who sound just like him) also lived.

Anyway, as I’ve been thinking about our ninth wedding anniversary, one paragraph from the last letter Jake wrote me that summer (dated 7/29/06) keeps coming to mind:

As the summer draws near its end, I couldn’t help but think of my summer as a whole. I find it interesting that a girl like you and a guy like me have been so faithfully writing each other, and furthermore, enjoying each other’s letters when in reality we don’t seem to have that much in common. I am a guy from the boonies who loves excitement, thrill, and pushing the limit, while (although you may object) I understand you to be a safe, down-to-earth, thrill avoider (note: he underlined “avoider” three times) who would just as soon stay in Des Moines, Iowa for the rest of your life. Is it possible that a mutual faith and similar Biblical values are enough to allow such a relationship between two seemingly opposite people to progress?

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So, did anyone want to guess which one of us is the lighter and which one of us is the broomstick in this particular metaphor?

Jake and I are the unlikeliest of pairs.

Yet, together, I’ve seen us accomplish a lot of good and important things (you know, like turning monitors back on and stuff) in the nine years we have been married.

Furthermore, I can’t help but notice that so many of the things we have done together are things that a broomstick would never have accomplished without the initial spark of a lighter.

We’ve still got (and always will have) a lot of growing to do. We don’t have a perfect marriage by any means.

But we do have a mutual faith and similar Biblical values, and, while that’s certainly not all it takes to make a marriage work, I really believe those lenses have tethered us to the things that are lasting and have given us common goals with each passing year of our marriage.

The metaphor, after all, isn’t really about the lighter and the broomstick as individual units. It’s about how, united, they worked together for the good of someone else.

It’s about purpose.

And, in year nine, more than anything, I’m thankful to be married to a man who shares a similar vision as to what exactly our purpose is.

A man who lights a fire under my feet and continually pushes me toward our common goals. Toward the good of other people.

And, on the cusp of a decade, that feels pretty good.

You know what else feels good? I didn’t live in Des Moines, Iowa my entire life, so take that 2006 Jake.

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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)

when the hours get long.

Jake and I have now, officially, lived through the real life version of Grey’s Anatomy, Season 1 although it seems worth noting that our version of the intern year of residency was much less dramatic than what you might have watched take place at Seattle Grace Hospital (Apparently highly unusual medical scenarios don’t wheel themselves into the hospital every single day. Who knew?).

Today, the label “Intern” gets taken from Jake and given to the new class of first year residents who are are coming to a hospital near you (they say, “Don’t get sick in July” for a reason, you know). As I think about the transition so many spouses and significant others are about to embark on, I feel this incredible need to have them all to my house for coffee and scones, so I can tell them things like, “You’re not alone!” or “This year will, really, go so fast!” or “Sometimes it will be really terrible!”

But mostly, I want to tell them how we’ve made it work. I want to pass along the tips that were passed along to me so that people who live with people who work long hours can know that they can make it through. (This is, of course, not limited to those in the medical field. I see you, friends whose spouses work equally long hours in their own chosen professions.)

So, please grab a scone and a hot cup of coffee. I’d like to tell you five personal principles that have helped me through the longest days of the longest weeks of this past year as as I’ve navigated my way through this whole “Wife of a Resident Doctor” thing.IMG_5587Communicate.  This could also be called “Name your feelings,” but that felt a little bit chintzy. It also applies, very obviously, to every single relationship, but I have found it to be an especially important principle to keep at the forefront of my mind during this season of our lives. You see, it’s easy for me to stop talking about my feelings when there’s really no way to change the thing that is bothering me. I mean, I could say to Jake, “It frustrates me that you work so many hours,” but, as it would be, he’s still going to keep working long hours. So, instead, I often choose to suck it up and deal until suddenly I hit my breaking point.

Bitterness and Resentment (who are never welcomed guests) set up camp when we stop talking about our feelings and assume the other person is keenly aware of our internal distress. Sometimes, just saying, “I’m sad. I miss my friends.” makes all the difference even if it doesn’t change the situation at hand.

Turn off social media sometimes (but mostly around holidays). Now, I cannot complain in this regard because I have been very fortunate to have Jake around for all major holidays thus far. He has, though, worked his fair share of American holidays in which I’ve found myself at home eating leftovers with the girls while my Instagram feed fills up with family feasts and gatherings and general merriment which I am not a part of. It’s hard to be alone especially when you know everyone else is together.

So, every now and then, I’ll delete all my social media apps completely from my phone and prove that I can go days and even weeks (okay, I only managed the latter twice) without Facebook or Instagram. You don’t own me, social media! As an added bonus, I find that I’m more present for the girls when I do this. Yeah, I know. Shocker.

Don’t wait up. The hours Jake works on paper are rarely the hours that he works in real time. I used to wait for him. We’d wait to eat dinner or wait to go to bed, and every time he was late, I would be so irritated. We don’t wait anymore. We eat when we’re hungry and go to bed at our regularly scheduled bedtimes and go to the park even if there’s a chance that he might get home while we’re gone. We are all (Jake included) happier because new, super-flexible Molly has implemented this principle.

Enjoy the time when you have it. I have this terribly obnoxious tendency to waste a perfectly free evening with Jake solely because I’m hung-up anticipating all the hours he’ll be gone the next day or week. Of all my flaws, this ranks up there toward the most-annoying for Jake (above Googling the ends to suspenseful movies while we’re watching them but below my inability to remember to turn off overhead lights when I leave a room).

Everything is always better when I take it one day at a time and choose to be thankful for the time I have.

Die to yourself. I obviously saved the easiest for last.

Typically, when someone is putting in long hours at the “office,” someone else isn’t. If you’re married to a doctor, or a coach, or someone serving in the military (etc., etc., etc.), when they are working extended hours in their field (maybe it’s a literal field!), you’re likely picking up the slack at home. You’re doing all the cleaning or cooking or [insert any other thing that society would tell you should be evenly split in a healthy relationship] and that’s just the way it has to be for that season. You can mutter under your breath about how he never cleans the bathroom (of course I’ve never done this) or you can die to yourself and choose to love better.#LiveOutsideIt’s not easy (we were never promised that it would be), but it’s always worth it.

So, here we are ready to embark on year two of residency while many others step foot into year one and many others outside of this field entirely live through equally long and taxing hours.

May we live those long hours well and outside of our own strength.

Oh, and one more thing: Grey’s Anatomy Season 2 was more exciting than the first, right? Like, maybe Jake will have to cut open a chest while he’s stuck between floors on an elevator? I’ll report back this time next year.

finding value in the hard things.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint all the hardest moments of your life. These are the moments that strip us down and force the raw pieces of ourselves to rise to the surface. In my life, these times are marked by seasons of change. Seasons when the dependent variable vanishes, and I’m left with new, uncharted territory.

The beginning of college. My first years of teaching. The journey through medical school. The birth of babies. A move across the country. Residency. The unpredictability of toddlers. Mornings when you realize you’re out of coffee.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my responses to these moments when life strips me down to the nitty-gritty. I’m certainly not trying to make a case that my life is harder than anyone else’s (We’ve got a lot of good things going for us here. My espresso machine, for instance, came through with the win on this coffee-less morning.). But, it seems an unavoidable fact that each season of life comes with its own various challenges. And, the more of them I come up against, the more resolved I am to face them well.norah sandA few months ago, I was dialoguing with a friend about prayer, and she sent me this clip of a Francis Chan sermon from like 8 years ago. It starts with a song, but Chan’s commentary at the end is what has been on repeat in my brain for the last month. Here’s what he had to say:

When we pray, we’re always praying, “God change things” rather than, “God change me.” We want God to change the circumstances and take away all this pain, all these trials, all these hardships rather than God’s plan which is, “No, I want to put some of these things in your life and you need to be praying for yourself that you would grow through these things.”

You see, whenever we have decisions to make, we want God to make it easy, [so we] say, “God why don’t you close all the doors and just leave one open?” [Instead we should say], “God, why don’t you make me incredibly wise, so I know how to make a good decision?”

When trials come, we say, “God, why don’t you change them? Why don’t you fix the situation and take away all the pain? [Instead we should say], “God why don’t you use this time to grow perseverance in me?” […]

Yes, there are times when God changes the situation, but so often, more than anything, God wants us to change and we should be praying for these circumstances that God allows in our lives as opportunities for us to grow in our character and our person.

I can’t get this tiny shift in perspective out of my head.

I know my tendency is to pray for the hard things to end. For ease and consistency and predictability. That bedtime battles will be replaced by compliance or that sibling fights will turn into happy conversations. But what if instead I prayed for patience? Or compassion? Or wisdom to parent my kids the best that I can?

I can’t always change my situation, but I can always change the way I respond to it.lily sand2 This, I am finding, is making all the difference. The realization that I was never promised ease or comfort and the reminder that, if I will let Him, God will use the hard things I face to sharpen me into a better version of myself. It’s not easy to shift perspective in the moment, but it is always worth it when I do.

Now, excuse me while I go attend to the screaming toddlers in the other room. Please send coffee.

perfect advice is a fairytale (but it’s still worth asking for).

Once upon a time there was a maiden princess. She was spirited and animated and greatly full of life, but oh, did she also love to sleep.

Until one dark day when her parents, not knowing the magical powers it possessed, took away her pacifier.

As soon as the pacifier’s sleep spell was broken, the princess was turned into a tiny monster each naptime and bedtime. She would scream and cry and get out of bed until exhaustion finally got the best of her and sleep returned her to her normal state.

“Set a clear bedtime routine,” a kind villager said. “Try positive incentives,” suggested another. “Don’t engage with her,” added the town wiseman, Google.

Her parents did all these things, and then some more, yet still the tiny monster would return each day.

And they all lived happily ever after as long as there was coffee in the castle.

castleI’m thinking about a career in realistic children’s books.

But really, I’ve been thinking about our house’s sleep battles a lot over the past week. This was really the first “toddler-y” thing we had to deal with in our parenting, and in trying to figure out how to best deal with it, I reached out to my village (and Google, as any millennial mom would) for advice.

It’s frustrating when the things that work for other people don’t work for you. When you watch people skim across the tricky phases while you’re still wading through the muck of the deep end. And, I think this is true in a larger margin than just parenting even though I tend to have toddlers on the brain most frequently. In any walk of life, you get advice from those who have gone before you, and I guess I have realized recently (in a fairly non-cynical analysis), that you can’t fully trust anyone else’s advice.

Why? Sure, thanks for asking.

First, we are raising different human beings (see also: we are married to, roommates with, children of, etc. different people). Your kid is not the same as my kid. I will be in awe of your kid who sits quietly in your designated “time-out chair” just as you might be impressed when Lily responds to correction when her book time is threatened. Trying to perfectly replicate another mom’s solution to a problem hardly ever works because, news flash, her kid is different than mine. 

We are also annoyed by different things. My kids are covered with food after every single meal. For whatever reason, keeping kids and/or clothes clean during meals is not a bridge I care about dying on. Just come and find me later in the evening though while I’m trying to coerce Lily to wear matching pajamas. I know it doesn’t matter. But still, here I am fighting the unwinnable battle for no other reason than because it annoys me when clothes don’t match. As people, we’re just agitated by different things, and I think, tend to offer solutions about things that might not necessarily be a problem to someone else. 

Similarly, we have different breaking points. What sends me over the edge with my kids or my tipping point with Jake might be no big deal to any other person. Our thresholds vary. Some people can maneuver around a screaming toddler with ease and patience (see: Jake). You could suggest that I try reasoning with my kids because that is what works for you, but I know that is what will push me to my breaking point real fast. Instead? You’ll probably find me taking a timeout in the bathroom. 

Finally, our life stages don’t line up perfectly. You welcomed your second child when your first was five; I had two kids under two. You got married in your thirties while Jake and I had just stepped into the twenties. The same phases hit us at different times and in different ways and will certainly affect us differently. Me telling you that the best thing Jake and I did for our marriage early on was to take a year off before we started our respective careers doesn’t make any sense if you already have careers.

But it certainly does take a village, doesn’t it?

beth and girls

mom girls.jpgI don’t know how how anyone could navigate through life without the advice of others. Parents and mentors and marriage counselors and pastors and teachers and friends–these are the people who go before us and make us feel like we can do whatever it is that comes next.

I need their advice and their wisdom even if it’s frustrating sometimes when their life circumstances or breaking points are different from my own. It’s when I understand who I am (another essay entirely) and who my tiny tribe is that I can begin to use my sieve to sift through their advice. Some of it will work for us, and some of it won’t, but it’s still worth seeking it out. Plus, you’re bound to find some hidden nuggets of gold because everyone’s got some tucked away in their pockets.

Two of my favorite never-failing pieces of advice? Love people well and always have coffee in the house.

(Of course, if you don’t like coffee, then you probably can’t trust anything I have to say.)