marriage letters: on pulling for each other

Dear Eric,

One of my favorite times of the year is upon us. It’s when you slip on the red spandex, air up your tires, and hop on your bike to start training for race season.

There are many reasons I love this time of year.IMG_2879

First of all, the spandex.

Enough said?

Secondly, I love watching you do something you love. It relieves your stress, recharges your mind, renews your heart. You hop off the bike a better man each and every time you go out for a ride.

Thirdly, race culture is fun! Rid and I love coming to watch you race and mingling with the other bike wives and soaking up the sun while you work your tail end off.

Fourthly, thanks to burning 1500+ calories per ride, you look dang good. (Apparently not enough was said after my first point.)

I enjoy getting to ride bicycles together, too – and I appreciate that your speedy legs slow themselves down to a leisurely pace as I huff and puff up the Reed Valley hill. I’m pickier about my riding weather and more focused on the fun of it as opposed to the challenge (one of the only areas I oddly enough don’t always feel competitive), but I do enjoy going out on long rides together. The conversation, the scenery, the silence, the sound of our gears shifting in unison ties my heart to yours, reminds me of the journey we are on together.

One of the things about marriage is that, even when we are walking through different things, we are always walking together. Work is stressful for you, and while your tasks at work don’t affect me, the way they affect you then affects me. Sometimes this is a beautiful thing – it allows me to enter into your life and encourage you and spur you on.

Sometimes, though, it’s a frustrating thing. It causes tension because I don’t understand what you are walking through so I don’t want to engage you in that place, or I don’t want to give you sympathy. I want you to be able to leave it all at work, not bring it home to me. I get annoyed and I forget the beauty that I just described above of my role as a wife to enter into your struggle.

I am sure you often feel the same way with the junk I bring to the table. And the tears – goodness, the roller coaster of emotions that you have had to deal with over the past several months has been enough to make anyone crack.

We are two broken people trying to make a marriage work, and often one of us doesn’t have the strength to press on like normal.

So we pull for each other.

You are so good about “pulling” for me on the bike. When it’s windy and I am complaining, or if we are climbing a hill and I am struggling, you slow down and allow me to draft behind you, getting my front wheel as close as possible to your rear wheel. This takes some of the burden off me – and it puts us closer together. It forces teamwork.

And that’s how I want our marriage to be. Let’s be real, I will probably never have to pull for you on the bike, but when you are struggling in life (whether it be an off day or an off week or an off month), I want to get as close to you as possible and help pull you until your legs are strong enough to confidently pedal on their own. I want to work together in understanding that we take turns pulling – sometimes, it’s your turn, and sometimes it’s mine – and that we don’t keep count of how many pulls each of us has taken. We’re not about fairness in our marriage; we’re about working together on this journey and arriving to our destination at the same time and with the same pace.

So let’s get out our bikes and ride into new adventures together, both literally and metaphorically. I’ll be by your side in case you need someone to pull for awhile.

And so I can check you out in your fancy spandex race wear.

Love,
me.

marriage letters: on unmet expectations

Dear Eric,

Early on in our relationship, our primary disagreements were on unmet expectations. I expected, when you were coming to pick me up from church, that you would arrive 15 minutes before it started so we could get there right on time, maybe a few minutes early to mingle and find a seat. You expected that picking me up at 5 till 9 and walking in 8 minutes late was the best approach. Needless to say, we had a lot of silent, tension-filled car rides on Sunday mornings.

After getting married, we found that we had different ideas on how to spend a Saturday.You enjoy sleeping in a little, taking the morning slow, savoring the pleasure of not having anything to do. My internal alarm clock won’t let me sleep past 7 am, so I am always out the door at 7:15 to go grocery shopping, then coming home and clean and organize. No such thing as “slow” in my vocabulary.

Then there were the date nights. You would so lovingly plan out every detail of our evening, but a disconnect in my expectation of eating first versus your expectation that dinner could happen later would stir up tension and frustration (until you caught on that I don’t function well when I’m hungry).

So – out of necessity – we started communicating expectations. I think this has been one of the best practices in our marriage, one of the areas I have seen the most growth for us. Very rarely do we miscommunicate because we take precautions to talk about everything.

Each Friday night, we ask, “What do you expect for tomorrow?”
Every Sunday while driving home from church, we talk about how we want the day to look.
Throughout the week, we talk about which evenings are free and if there is anything the other wants to prioritize.

Plus we know each other well enough to know how the other usually wants to spend free time.

Recently, though, I have recognized more significant unmet expectations that we are still working through, ones that additional communication won’t repair.

It’s you with your job – working in a corporate office is not where you expected to be four+ years after graduating. You question what you are doing and why you are there and if there is any hope for something else. We dream together about grad school and ministry and what it will take to help you thrive, but it all seems just out of our reach. I sense you fighting bitterness against the life you wanted but don’t have, the disillusionment of being a twenty-something. You want to have it all figured out before we have kids, before we enter a new season, but it doesn’t seem to be happening the way you expected it would.

But unmet expectations are also held by that idea of entering the next season. The work and the waiting in starting a family was not what we expected. I am still processing what it means to not have control over this timing while finding myself each month wondering if it is time. We haven’t been in this new journey for very long, and I know it’s not time for me to be frustrated yet, but it’s been long enough for me to realize that I still struggle with not getting what I want when I want it. With unmet desire and with plans I don’t get to plan. And unlike in our marriage, God doesn’t sit down with me and discuss His expectations or His ideas. He simply sits with me, lets me talk, and asks me to trust Him.

To be honest, I think we fear asking God for specific things because of past unmet expectations. We fear setting deadlines and praying big prayers – not because we don’t believe God is capable, but because we deep down don’t believe He will answer.

We can’t fix these unmet expectations on our own, and we have to learn how to handle them just how we had to learn how to do with the little things in marriage. We are processing with words and with tears and with presence. Instead of a disconnect, our unmet expectations are pulling us together. And that might make all the difference with whatever we will encounter in the future – that we are a team. We are doing this as one.

Starting today, let’s both work to believe God for big things and to grow together as we ask for more faith. Life may not meet the expectations we have set, but I’m grateful we get to work at it with each other, rerouting our plans and rearranging our desires to match what the Lord has for us in the present.

You are the best teammate, and the Lord exceeded my expectations when He gave me you.

Love,
me.

marriage letters: on home

Dear Eric,

We once thought we would get to work together – back when we thought we were joining a ministry, the both of us. We had worked together once before, a brief period at the same company. Driving to work together daily was fun, but also convenient since we only had one car. And the time we had to take that one car to the shop to be repaired, we rode our bikes to work. There was something so sweet about taking a break during the day to grab something to drink and meander up to your desk just to say hi and kiss you on the cheek. If I had a bad day, I could send you an instant message and ask you to meet me in the break room, and you could just hug me for a minute, reminding me that everything was going to be okay.

We dreamed about working together not just for convenience and kisses, though. We loved the idea of working for the same purpose, of being united together in our daily goals and plans and spent energy.

Yet that’s not what happened. We work on opposite sides of town and spend our energies differently, me for college students and you for pet treats. Once again, we only have one car, so thank goodness for your motorcycle to allow for our separate schedules and transportation needs.

Despite our different locations and goals and tasks, though, I find that we do still work together. Our place of unity, of working together, of shared vision, is our home. Home is where we are a team.

We’re still in the “newlywed” stage of home ownership, where people are frequently asking us how we like our new house. We usually smile and talk about how fun it has been and what current projects we are working on to make it our own. You have been building that screened in porch, and even though it is taking longer than you hoped (definitely not a weekend project), I am super excited about how it is turning out. I’ve been trying to brainstorm new ideas for our bedroom and the office, and there are still some boxes nagging at me from the upstairs closet. It’s been so fun to work together to tangibly create “our space” and decide what we want to change or keep.

But our new house isn’t just special to me because of the porches or the walk in closet or the spacious kitchen. The working together I am thinking of is not only in the physical and tangible. The significance of our house is the space of home, the space for us to create together, to work together, to live together. It’s where we engage in ministry and community. It’s where we battle for our marriage and for our friends’ marriages and for our families in prayer. Home is where we will one day work together (and learn together) in raising our own family. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction.” The side by side work is my favorite, because you are the one by my side.

Let’s keep spinning this web together.

Love,
me.

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Each month, I write a letter to participate with Amber Haines in the “Marriage Letters” series on her blog. I love getting to develop this practice of blessing my husband and our marriage. You should also check out Amber’s most recent marriage letter and the others that are linked up to her post.

marriage letters: on new seasons

Dear Eric,

Our life seems to be all about new seasons lately. We moved out of our rent house – the first place we lived together after we got married – and have moved into our first purchased house. I’m no gardener, but I feel like we have transplanted ourselves from a patio container to the deep, wide earth. This new house is full of new possibilities and projects and places to grow together.

IMG_3858

As the old house slowly emptied (thanks to working hands of dear friends), the reality of our move was numbed by my desire to start unpacking boxes and finding a new sense of home. It felt less bittersweet than I expected – rather, it felt right.

Our final week in our sweet Sycamore home was fitting – boxes filling every nook and corner, just as they did when we first moved in. Red tulips, planted as bulbs for my birthday last fall, bloomed that last week. The scissors were packed away, so I grabbed stems straight out of the ground and carried them to our new home in my fist, ragged edges revealing my haste in making sure we didn’t move without taking those blossoms we rightfully deserved to enjoy.

As spring settles in to her unpredictable routine, we, too, now settle in to this new season of home ownership. While you have always been a do-it-yourself kind of guy, I see you in a whole ‘nother element here, planning for and daydreaming about projects you want to start and ways to make this place our own.  You have already worked hard to help make this house home, and I am grateful for everything you have accomplished.

As we move forward on this “new house high,” though, I want you to know that I don’t expect it to always feel this exciting. I am anticipating days when the idea of another house project doesn’t seem as fun, or moments when we wish we could just call a landlord to deal with the latest problem. While you get excited now to cross things off the honey-do list, I am cautiously awaiting the day that list becomes a burden on you. As with each weather-related season, the newness will turn to normal, and we once again won’t be able to wait for a change in temperature.

Spring’s moody weather patterns wear on me even now, and I am wishing for consistent sunshine and heat.

The point of this letter, though, is where I want you to find confidence. Whether we are in an exciting seasonal transition or the doldrums of repetition, I am grateful to be growing by your side. I will never tire of crawling into bed, clicking off lamps, and weaving my feet in between yours. I will never long for a seasonal change in our morning routine of prayers and cheek kisses before we go our separate ways. I love the anticipation of new seasons, but that anticipation would not be the same if it was not with you.

In the words of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “home is wherever I’m with you.”

And even when new seasons turn into monotonous days, I am grateful to God to find myself at your side.

Love,
me.

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marriage letters logoOn the first Monday of every month (or when I get around to it), I’ll be writing a letter to participate with Amber Haines in the “Marriage Letters” series on her blog. I love getting to develop this practice of blessing my husband and our marriage. You should also check out Amber’s most recent marriage letter and the others that are linked up to her post.

marriage letters: what you call holy

Dear Eric,

There’s this recurring look you get in the spring and summer – out of breath, gleam in your eye, salt on your cheeks and creases of eyes. The words from your mouth tell of tired legs and hard hills and exhaustion… but that gleam tells of more.

Helmet, wheels, back roads become your own burning bush, the instruments God uses to turn you aside from tasks and meet Him on holy ground. Alone on your bike, you listen for His voice and hold fast to your desire for His Presence. You are the thinker between us, I the rash one, and I am ever thankful for the space you make to process with your Father.

37190_1657608283722_7806036_nThat look of having encountered the holy is similar to the look that caused me to fall in love with you in the first place. That summer before we started dating (when we were both in Alaska and I called you and told you that I had no interest in being anything beyond friends so you should forget it), I secretly checked your Facebook page regularly to find new photos of what you were doing in Anchorage while I was 600 miles away in Juneau, separated by land and water and uncertainty. I felt like we didn’t connect in the way I expected to connect with someone I wanted to date, but I couldn’t stop myself from admitting that you were one hunk of a man. There are a couple of pictures of you with a sort of smirk on your face, I assume towards the photographer, yet the life behind your eyes drew me in. I knew there was something special about that boy with the wind-blown hair and hiking boots, I just didn’t think that something special was for me. You wanted it still. I didn’t. But I wished I wanted it.

What you call holy is wrapped up in wind and air and breath and lack of breath. Your space to meet with God, take off your sandals, and strip bare before Him happens as you ride your bike or hike a mountain or wake up among the trees. It is there that you are honest, available, alive.

And it is there that we now meet God together. I can’t believe He provided a man for me who wants to create holy spaces with me, to linger in the coolness of the morning or to pedal away from the fading sun in hopes of being united together in that which you call holy.

Love,
me.

P.S. Ever thought about growing your hair out again?

_______________________________

marriage letters logoOn the first Monday of every month, I’ll be writing a letter to participate with Amber Haines in the “Marriage Letters” series on her blog. I love getting to develop this practice of blessing my husband and our marriage. You should also check out Amber’s most recent marriage letter and the others that are linked up to her post.

marriage letters: on healing and wholeness

Dear Eric,

I have a feeling you will remember this week, though maybe not for happy reasons. Your work was hard – not in the way where I listen and want to tell you to stick it out, but in the way that my heart aches with the stress and the burden you are under. I wish I was in a more lucrative position to give you the chance to up and quit, because I know you thought about it multiple times on Monday and Tuesday.

And your job is not the only sinker pulling you down — after two weekends and somewhere around 20 hours of labor, your 4Runner still won’t start. To avoid sharing a car yesterday, you rode your motorcycle to work in chilly weather, only to have the battery die on you at a gas station up the street. It’s not a fantastic ratio to have two out of three motorized vehicles out of commission.

On top of all of this, you have been sick for the past 36 hours (ironic, since this letter is about health). You got home from work last night and immediately curled up on our loveseat (one day, we will have a normal sized couch, I promise) under our favorite green blanket. I got home to a kitchen full of dirty dishes from having dinner guests the night before, frantically sighed, and surrendered to Little Caesar’s offer of a $5 pizza. Those dishes are still sitting there this morning, lounging in the residue of pot roast and cheese grits. This real life stuff is romantic, let me tell ya.

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Yet the sun is rising this morning just the same. I can catch glances of wispy clouds between the silhouettes of naked trees out our living room window. Traffic is picking up on our little street, the one people in the east part of town use as a cut-through to College. The neighbors are scraping frost off their windshields, and I am grateful for a janky-yet-functional carport courtesy of our landlords. A verse about mercies being new each morning repeats in my head as I hear you stretch and groan in your barely-conscious state.

Even a year or two ago, this week would have had me in tears. Sharing a car and working in different towns would have provoked daily tensions in our relationship and in our home. The emotional burden you carry back from work would have once pushed us apart, a distance I couldn’t quite grasp. Lies of loneliness used to drag me down when we didn’t get quality time in the evenings, like last night when you fell asleep so early. We may not have fully figured out adulthood yet (does anyone ever?), but I see progress on our journey. That trailhead from three years ago is in the distance, and even when it feels like we are climbing up rocks by hands and feet, the view keeps getting better.

And that’s how I feel about healing and wholeness. We aren’t there yet, and I still see wounds in you, in us, from the parts of the journey that still don’t make sense – but we are healthier than we were a year ago, and I think that means we are walking in the right direction.

Feel better, babe. I love you.

Love,
me.

_______________________________

 

marriage letters logoAmber at The Runamuck is starting up a marriage letters series again! This month wasn’t an official link-up, but you should check out her recent marriage letter. Starting in February, I will be linking up with others at the start of the month who are also practicing the habit of blessing their husbands and their marriages.

marriage letters: seeing you come alive

Dear Eric,

My dad is a man of many hobbies and talents. From restoring an old car to planting a garden to riding dirt bikes to building bunk beds, my child-self was fascinated with the projects he could accomplish.

It’s not surprising that I married a man who is the same way.

Whether it is building a coffee table or installing new shifters on your bicycle or planning out our next camping spot, you’ve always got something new on the radar. Something else you want to accomplish or learn or start.

You come alive when you know you are capable of something. 

photo (2)I watched you last weekend as you competed in your first Cat 5 cycling race. I watched the detail and attention you paid to your bike as you prepared for the event. I watched you talk to other riders, seeking advice and tips to set you up for success. I watched your eyes, hard and determined, after you passed me on that first lap, pushing through after the crash that slowed you down – but didn’t stop you. I watched you finish strong, already thinking about the next race, since you now knew you were capable of competing.

You had proved yourself.

As someone who played competitive sports throughout my life, I remember the thrill of the moments before the whistle blows and the rushing adrenaline and the attention to detail and the pre-game rituals. The thrill of your efforts and training finally about to pay off.

You came alive in experiencing that thrill.

I have always known you to be someone who persevered, someone who refused to give up. That determination still shines through, and I hope you see yourself as capable.

The best part about a husband who dares and tries and does not shy away from challenges is that you want to involve me. You let me help you sand and stain that coffee table, even if you had to go back over my work. You ask for my hand when you replace brake pads on our car. You encourage me as I try to pedal hard up hills, helping me feel capable to keep up with you on the bike.

You come alive when you see that you are needed in this marriage – when I need you as a shoulder to cry on or advice on spiritual issues or someone to open the pickle jar. You spring to action (usually going to prayer first) when things are wrong, ready to prove yourself once again. Ready to prove this marriage.

And that proving gives me a sense of security that I never dreamed of.  Even when things are harder than expected, you have what it takes – for your hobbies and personal goals and, most importantly, for this marriage. 

And I love watching you come alive as you realize at the end of each day what you are capable of. I know God has equipped you with what it takes, and I believe in you.

Love,
me.

_______________________________

marriage letters logoOn the first Monday of every month, I’ll be writing a letter to participate with Amber Haines in the “Marriage Letters” series on her blog. Though it’s only been two years for us, I want to develop this practice of blessing my husband and our marriage. You should also check out Amber’s most recent marriage letter and the others that are linked up to her post.