I DO x 10.

Wedding Pic

October 3, 2013

Dear Lover (said in the very best SNL “hot tub lovers” accent),

Ten years ago today we walked down that aisle, ready for commitment and companionship, intimacy and trust. We held hands and kissed and said, “I DO.” We believed that God had brought us together – that wild, rebellious, adventurous guy and that independent, sweet, obedient girl – who defied the culture around us and dated and waited well through our late twenties. We felt mature. We felt ready. We were happy. We were about to take a leap into marriage bliss, into our future, into forever, together. That day, our day, was unique and classy and beautiful. Nothing extravagant, just simple and meaningful. Just perfectly us.

And here we are, a decade later, still together – still skipping and fumbling and wandering and wondering, still learning to cherish and honor, still learning to fall…in love. We haven’t “arrived.” We’re still traveling. I’m so, so grateful for how our love story keeps moving and shifting and becoming…truer, deeper, wider.

Here’s what I know today, that I didn’t know 3,650 days ago:

I know a lot more about what comes with commitment. It’s in the “staying” – when hot, angry words fly around, when wrong and reactive responses come spewing out, when a cold shoulder gets shoved in a face, when the heart shuts off and takes a hike, when money and property and home-owning don’t go as planned, when romance and adventure fizzle and flop, when negative family patterns and personalities flare up, when ideas and ideals get squashed, when children call out the worst in you. These are the war zones, where the battles take place, when we want to quit. They’re brutal. They’re ugly. We’ve stepped on some killer land mines. Yet, we’re here. We both keep showing up. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes God only knows how we’ve made it back to one other. But we did. We’ve stayed.

I know a lot more about what comes with companionship. It’s in the “playing” – together, and with others. Something really good happens when we take the time to be alone, to be adults, to be friends. We’ve always talked and listened and processed – in the car, on the phone, in restaurants, in the living room, on vacations. We talk about what matters and what doesn’t matter. We keep making each other laugh…hard. We explore and discover, we re-visit and reminisce. Your “bads” are my “goods.” My “goods” are your “bads.” You introduce me to your world of boats and beer and wide open country – of peace. I introduce you to my world of mindfulness and moscato and big cities – of adventure. And then we invite others into our world – people who laugh with us (maybe at us) and play with us and who feel comfortable with us. We’re totally “people” people who love to laugh and eat and play. These have remained essentials in our marriage.

I know a lot more about what comes with intimacy. It’s in the “sharing” – openly, honestly, graciously. We were both intellectually reflective people back in the beginning, but neither of us knew much about what it really meant to connect, emotionally. Neither of us had many positive, lasting experiences being vulnerable, with ourselves, with others. This didn’t set us up well. But I’ve been learning…what it means to put your whole self on the table and allow it to be heard, received, pushed back on, embraced. I’m learning what it means to get mad and sad and scared, what it means to soar. And then, what to do with all of that, how to “be” with all of that, how to respond to all of that. I’m learning to see more of what’s inside me. I’m learning to see more of what’s inside you. Sometimes I might not like what I see, but I’m wanting, I’m choosing, to see the remarkable and the perfectly OK parts…in both of us – with openness, with honesty, with grace.

I know a lot more about what comes with trust. It’s in the “believing” – in one another’s goodness. It’s easy to think someone’s trustworthy when the endorphins rage and the romance stays. But, now we know how easily the endorphins fade and the romance can drift away. I (kind of) thought I trusted people, especially you, wholeheartedly. Winds up I didn’t. Now I know, I trusted mostly myself. Winds up that doesn’t work, at least in marriage. Somewhere I learned that someone is trustworthy only if they never hurt you. Which means, somewhere I learned that people aren’t human. But, they are. You are. I am. We’re learning what it means to repair the ruptures, start over, re-do – with respect, with acceptance, with forgiveness. We’re learning how to be human, together. We’re learning this new of way of believing…in one another.

So I guess that over the past ten years, I’ve been learning what you sign up for when you say, “I DO.” It’s not about getting hitched and wearing some bling and building a house and growing onions and cranking out darling Korean/Norwegian babies. It’s not about the picture of the perfectly posed wedding couple, smiling, admiring one another. It’s about what’s IN them – in us – and how God wants to use what’s happened BEHIND each of us to create something redemptive THROUGH us, together, FORWARDS. It’s about building and breaking and re-building. It’s about staying and playing and sharing and believing. It’s about love – learning what it means and feels like and looks like from above. And then, offering that kind of love in ways that free you, free me, so that we can create something sacred and true, together, that gives an even a fuller picture of LOVE himself…to one another, to the world.

I’m quite certain, that’s what we signed up for that day. Let’s keep leaning and living into THAT love story!

I’m in this, with you.

Happy I DO x 10, Baby!

I love you…still…always.

With much love and gratitude for where we are, right now…

Carissa

PS – I still love that I married someone with big eyes for my babies!

phone5-27 143

phone10-6 113

Advertisements

finding him. finding her. finding us.

858218_520816824607414_911767358_o

He strolled down the school halls like he owned the school. His dark brown hair, wavy mullet to follow, gave the perfect “I am too sexy” look. My eyes were drawn to those black, denim pegged pants, thinking he was the coolest male ever. He was the rebel, the joker, the teaser, the pleaser. And there I was, the new girl, the home-schooled girl, the girl in mauve glasses carrying her flute and wearing her matching navy blue and green whale sweater and turtleneck.

cdwed 001pic 20He flirted with me.

I giggled.

He smiled at me.

I thought he liked me.

He didn’t like me back.

So, I became friends with his sister.

Wedding Pic cdwed 008

A decade later, we started dating.

Four and half years later, we got married.

Nine years later, we’re still saying, “I DO.”

We laugh, we play, we cuddle, we talk, we fight, we shut down, we retreat, we apologize, we forgive, we repair, we soften…and then we do it all over again and again and again.

We’ve worked hard. We’re still working. We’re still learning. We’re still discovering…ourselves, one another, what we signed up for.

When we started this, when we started, “ us,” we had no clue what really came with, “I DO.” No clue at all.

Choosing a mate can be exciting and daunting, exhilarating and scary. For many of us, we have this deep desire to spend the rest of our lives with someone – someone who we get to share our entire life with. I mean seriously, the benefits are amazing – companionship, intimacy, fun, protection, advocacy, love, belonging. The list could go on forever! Yet, we all know the statistics on divorce, the breakdowns, the fractures, the splits. We get it. Staying together in this world, this culture, it’s hard. Really hard. When we say, “I DO,” we don’t ever think it’s going to be us. We don’t ever want to be one of those statistics. We don’t ever want to be the main character on the next Bachelor/Bachelorette show because our love didn’t make it.

So, how do we choose? Well?

To stay connected, we have to know how to connect.

To experience trust, we have to know how to cultivate trust.

To offer love, we have had to feel loved.

To work through the disappointment, we’ve had to learn what to do with it.

To find a mate, we have to have found ourselves.

The dopamine only lasts for a certain amount of time. Yes, the “commitment” hormones kick in, but we have to choose to do the work.

I hope you have practice choosing…connection, respect, trust, love, forgiveness, humility, integrity, sacrifice, grace, perseverance.

I hope you know who you are – the good parts, the hard parts.

I hope you know who God says you are.

And then, have the practice of offering who you are to the world.

Because then, I think you’ll know when that same kind of person steps into your world.

cdwed 016

Celebrating the love within you, around you, how it shines through you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

wider spaces

Remember that moment…the moment that your heart just knew you were going to spend the rest of your life with that person? The butterflies began fluttering more quickly. Your heart began beating more rhythmically. Your dreaming and fantasies were filled with nothing but bliss and delight. Your future…it was planned. You had found “the one.” Your belief in that person’s goodness was cemented. This was love and nothing was going to move you from this place. Nothing.

Until you got hurt. Until you became disappointed.

Not once, but maybe somewhere around the 100th time.

Your heart, your belief in that goodness…it started to wane. Intention was questioned.

In the really hard moments with your spouse, does your heart ever long for more? More of your spouse…to show up? Do you find yourself wondering if it will ever feel like those first moments again? Isn’t it amazing how the very things that first drew you to your spouse can be the very things that now drive you crazy?

Perhaps the laid back and easy going demeanor is now seen as passivity.

Or, maybe the goal-oriented, task-oriented achiever feels like someone who you can’t be enough for.

Or, perhaps the spontaneous and big ideas person leaves you feeling average and boring.

Maybe it’s finding out that the family system your spouse grew up in had layers deeper than you had anticipated and now your spouse’s values and beliefs about how to live life and do family and what kind of God to believe in keeps one of you content and one of you moving…forward.

Perhaps the tender, sensitive, deep heart now causes everything you do or say to be taken personally and you find yourself being the one who brings pain over and over again.

Perhaps the ability to keep calm and the desire for peace has become a message that feels like you’re not worth a hard conversation.

Or, maybe the ability to create order and structure and boundaries has become an expectation of perfection that you just can’t live up to.

The list could go on and on and on. Something that once was so good has become something so hard.

For many couples, in its time, the very thing that was once a complement has become a burden. We stopped seeing what our spouse has to offer as a gift and we begin trying to change them…to become more like us. But, is that what God intended for this sacred and beautiful union? This mingling of souls? To become more like one another?

Could it be that as we choose to “join” our spouse and step into what comes with “I DO” that God has something transformative for us? That we, somehow, mysteriously could become more like him through this relationship?

When I meet with couples, I ask them to tell their story – the people and events and experiences that have shaped them. Afterward, I ask them to identify what, because of their story, do they specifically have to offer in their relationship; and then, what, because of their story, do they specifically long for in their relationship. It’s amazing to hear how their stories are complements of exactly what the other person longs for…perhaps even what the other person needs more of. As I’ve listened and learned from couples and as I experience my own relationship, I’ve come to believe that what we offer in our marriages are specific ways that we reflect the image of God – it is good and needed. But often, what I find is that when disappointment surfaces – when things don’t go the way we had hoped – we begin going after what we long for and gradually stop offering who we are…God’s image. And that’s when it can get really messy, really hard, really toxic.

Unfortunately, no one gave us a manual on how to respond when our heart begins aching and longing and hurting. So most of the time, we keep clinging to what we want changed and find ourselves and our marriage stuck.

It’s the new year. A time to re-new. It’s that annual moment when almost every human takes time to reflect on “what was” and “what is” and “what could be.” It’s a time to pause and re-center and anticipate and dream. I love the intention behind this. I love what this can become.

In the practice of not giving anyone “3 easy steps” or “10 helpful hints” about marriage, I would rather invite you into a new way of thinking and relating and engaging. What would it look like for you to recognize that perhaps the space you have created for your spouse to step into – towards you – has become really narrow, really small? And then, what would it look like for you to widen that space and accept that person wherever they may step in and not demand or expect them to be someone they aren’t?

And then, have the eyes to see their goodness – the person that you saw when you first became enchanted. It for sure will feel a bit risky because it may be an unknown way of relating. Let that fear take you to new places. Let it change you. Let it remind you of who you are and what you have to offer.

I am hopeful that in offering that wider space, we are choosing to offer grace. We are choosing to believe in our spouse’s goodness and that is love – that’s what we said “I DO” to. And in doing so, we will honor ourselves, honor our spouse, and ultimately, honor God.

So…here’s to the new year and to wider spaces.