5 Reasons I’m Glad I Got Married

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I’m not advising you to get married.

I’m also not suggesting that married people have more fulfillment in their lives than single people. I’m simply sharing my experience because I expected to hate marriage.

Weird, right?

I’d heard about how “hard” marriage would be, and I experienced a lot of fear and indecision beforehand, so I can honestly say that my marriage has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Sometimes it’s nice to recall the good decisions that you’ve made.

Here are five aspects of married life that I love:

1. Companionship

Ordinary tasks take on more meaning when you share them with someone. I’ve always felt this way. Even in college, when a dear friend helped me clean my dorm room, the chore became a bonding experience. Now that I’m married, grocery shopping or cooking dinner can become a date. My husband calls this “life-ing” together.

I’d much rather fold laundry for us than for me. Long drives to audio gigs become special memories. Yard work becomes an opportunity for conflict management. Watching Netflix on the couch doesn’t feel like a waste of time because we get to cuddle. Companionship imbues my mundane moments with a greater sense of purpose.

2. Friendship

Growing up, my best girlfriends and I giggled about the same boys. We stayed up late, watching Disney movies and eating raw cookie dough. We wore matching outfits. Honestly, marriage feels a little like that sometimes.  My husband and I sit around the house most evenings, telling each other about something cute our cat just did.

We stay up too late on work nights watching funny YouTube videos. We reference obsolete Office quotes and laugh at our own jokes. We have long phone conversations while driving, sharing every uninteresting detail of our day. We eat ice cream straight from the carton and record music videos together. Basically, we’re besties.

3. Company

I don’t do well on my own. Once upon a time, when I lived in a house full of siblings, parents, and grandparents, I craved “alone time” to play with my beanie babies. As an adult, I have discovered that I need someone with me. My semester in Oxford, England first impressed this lesson on me, and married life has provided further confirmation.

It’s not that I can’t ever be alone. Sometimes I enjoy a nice hot bath, a novel, or an evening to myself to clean the bathroom sinks. I recently flew to California for a one-night business trip, and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown in the hotel room. After a day or two without quality time, though, I get sad. My husband makes me feel more secure.

4. Partnership

I think this is the part people are talking about when they say that marriage is “hard.” You react immaturely to a stressful situation, and your spouse gets to see the worst side of you. Then your spouse hits a low point, and you wonder how the two of you will ever recover. In the worst of times, you sink simultaneously. Those times really stink.

The way I see it, everyone goes through something horrible at some point, married or otherwise. No, it’s not fun to bear someone else’s burden. It’s also not very enjoyable for them to carry yours … but we have no other option. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t handle my issues alone.

5. Growth

Stagnation is probably my worst fear. Fortunately for me, it’s literally impossible to remain stagnant when you’re married–at least, that seems to be the case for Evan and me. We push all of each other’s buttons, which means that we have lots of … opportunities to mature. We don’t have a choice if we want to get along.

Most recently, my husband is learning to balance his work and home life, and I’m learning to give him space when he needs it. We’re both finding these lessons to be very challenging, but we’re better for it (I hope). I’d like to say that I’m a little more of an adult since getting married: more confident, more capable, and a tad less self-focused.

Jesus does all of this, too.

I’m abundantly relieved to discover that married life can be so great. I’m also learning, though, how much I still need Jesus.

It makes sense to me that the Bible calls Jesus the Bridegroom. Of course we all need constant, supportive people in our lives, but Jesus does it best. He’s willing to be our Companion, Friend, and Helper. He knows exactly when to push us and when to be gentle. He promises never to leave us alone.

I sure hope this blog post doesn’t discourage you if you’re not married because Jesus wants so much to be all of this for you and more. He wants that for me, too. As much as I rely on my husband, Evan can’t be my only source of strength. Jesus can.

I’m thankful to have both of them.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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How to Stay Calm

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Something unexpected happened, and you freaked out.

Afterward, you felt embarrassed about your overreaction.

Trust me, I have made the same mistake countless times, including this week.

I also believe that we can both do better. Here’s how:

1. Tell God.

Duh, right? Seems obvious for Christians, but I don’t think we practice the habit often enough. As soon as you encounter an uncomfortable situation, say to God, “This happened. I’m not sure how to respond.” It only takes five seconds, and it actually works.

2. Tell yourself.

The smartest thing my counselor every told me was this: “Feelings aren’t facts.” In the moment, the tiniest problems can seem like the end of the world, so I talk to myself internally: Your feelings aren’t facts. Chances are, you won’t feel this way in an hour.

Feelings aren’t facts.

3. Distract yourself.

If possible, find a task to consume your focus. Hustle to the laundry room and fold a shirt. Play a song on your phone. Brush your teeth–whatever pops into your mind. At work, open a new document and start typing.  Have a conversation with a coworker.

After about ten minutes, the initial wave of emotions will pass. Then you can revisit the situation with a little better perspective. Reacting immediately leads to regret.

4. Breathe alone.

Suppose the first three steps didn’t work, and you start to lose control. Go into the bathroom, shut the door, sit on the toilet, and breath slowly. Count to five for each inhale. Fill your diaphragm. Force yourself to finish ten full breaths before you quit.

5. Read the Bible out loud.

I use this step as my last-ditch effort when I can’t stop crying.

Through the gasping breaths, pick a Psalm at random and start to read verbally. The act of speaking serves as a distraction and requires more regular breathing. The meaning of the text gets you out of your head, and the Holy Spirit can start working on your heart.

Do not consider this a comprehensive list.

These five tricks  happen to have worked for me in the past. In fact, I tried a couple of them today with relative success. I didn’t even need to resort to number five–but I’d still love to hear your top five tips for keeping your emotions in check. Leave them in the comments!

Let’s work on staying calm together.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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5 Tips for Making Tough Decisions

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I hate making decisions so much that I almost didn’t marry the love of my life.

So when I tell you that I have a few tips about making difficult choices, trust me–these lessons were hard-won. Please know that I sympathize with your inner angst.

1. Take your time.

This is a weird one for me because, historically, I have taken way too much time to make decisions. Take my engagement as an example: almost a year and a half of agonizing thought, prayer, and discussion.

Ever since getting married, however, I seem to have swung wildly to the other extreme. Now I attempt to skip the entire experience by making decisions swiftly and at random, which is not a great alternative.

It’s OK to slog through the painful process. Pray. Search the scriptures. Talk with trusted friends and family. You’ll come out of it wiser. Hang in there.

2. Talk to future you.

Sometimes I like to stage imaginary conversations with myself six months in the future. Pretending that I have already picked a certain option, and I ask, “Do you regret your choice?”

My boss recently asked me to travel once per month to a radio station out of state. I’d meet with new clients and write new ads, which would mean a bigger workload and a larger commissions check each month.

Monthly travel sounded daunting, but we’d been going through a slow season with the local stations. I had a heart-to-heart with future Marie, imagining that she had declined the opportunity. She regretted missing the chance to grow. She felt bored. So I said yes.

3. Just make the decision.

Once you’ve carefully weighed each option, pick one. Acknowledge that you cannot predict every outcome, let go of your need for control, and take the scary step. In my experience, even a wrong decision will turn out better than no decision at all.

In fact, I’d estimate that the majority of choices don’t fall under the category of moral dilemmas. Often, either alternative could lead to some favorable results. Commit yourself to one path, and you’ll typically find both trials and successes.

In the rare case that you do make a horrible mistake, and disastrous consequences ensue … at least you’ll learn from the experience and make a better choice next time. Remaining in a state of permanent indecision gets you nothing but a tummy ache.

4. Stick with it.

Once you have made up your mind, don’t revisit the decision. Commit yourself fully to the path you have chosen. You also shouldn’t be too hasty to judge whether you made the “right” call or not. Give it some time; see how it goes.

A couple of years ago, my ENT recommended sinus surgery. He hoped that it would help me to breathe better at night. The financial cost was significant, however, and I would  need to take time off work for the recovery. After deliberating, I took my doctor’s advice.

The recovery ended up being much worse than the surgeon had anticipated. I had to take more days off work than I had planned. The pain was, frankly, horrible, and I didn’t respond well to the pain medication. Clearly, I had made a terrible mistake …

… except that I can actually breathe through my nose now. And, in retrospect, the nine-day recovery doesn’t seem so terribly long. Sometimes I need to give myself a break and have a little patience before labeling myself a failure.

Action cures fear. Indecision, postponement, on the other hand, fertilize fear. – David J. Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big, 1959

5. Trust yourself.

Right now, you don’t trust yourself. You don’t really trust God, either–not if you’re honest. That’s OK. Go ahead and do something scary.

Here’s the unpleasant reality: in order to develop trust, you must first risk failure. It’s going to feel awful the first few times. You’ll want to throw up, and you’ll feel certain that you’re going to ruin your entire life. You won’t.

And once the world hasn’t ended a couple of times, you’ll slowly start to become more confident in your own ability to make good choices. You’ll also be able to look back and observe how God was working undercover the whole time. He seems to prefer at little secrecy at first, for some reason.

I’m sorry that it’s scary right now.

I wish you didn’t need to feel afraid. I also believe that you can do this.

Because I did.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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How to Beat Your Fear of Failure

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They key is to try. Just keep trying.

I want so much to know God better; to become more organized; to practice healthier habits; and to keeping moving steadily toward my future goals.

I am also so very afraid.

Much like everyone else on this planet, I have trouble maintaining momentum. I do really well for a few weeks, and then I realize that I haven’t exercised or written a blog post in days … and then weeks. Heck, I even follow a blog about how to write a good blog, and the author warned me about that very problem.

Because of my pride, I hate to acknowledge that I’m one of “those” people who sets a goal and then gets tired. As soon as my excitement and motivation wane, so do my efforts. Enter discouragement. Enter self-doubt. Enter fear.

Strange, isn’t it, that while engaged in trying, I don’t feel scared? The moment I stand still, I start to wonder about the future, imagining an endless series of false starts. Then I attempt to mask my sense of inadequacy with excuses. It’s not a big deal; I’m doing fine. That goal didn’t matter very much anyway. I’ll get better. I’m just stressed out today.

What if, instead of assuaging my guilt with meaningless self-talk, I chose to silence my worries by trying again? Push “play” on a workout video. Open a new tab. Channel the mental energy I’ve been wasting on shame into trying.

Suddenly I’m back in college, listening to my classmates fret about upcoming assignments instead of working on said assignments. I pleaded guilty to the same crime on many occasions. Almost always, opening a book calmed my fears enough to help me focus. Turns out trying is an instant morale boost.

Trying is an instant morale boost.

Not only do I forget my fears while trying, but I also stop obsessing about the outcome. Stuck in a state of nervous inactivity, I create elaborate plans about what I will accomplish once I finally [get motivated] or [get over this cold] or [get back from this trip] or [insert other excuses].  In the midst of trying, however, my goals automatically shrink to realistic sizes … and I don’t mind so much.

I am often surprised to discover that when I actually try instead of berating myself for not trying sooner, I start to enjoy the process. As much as we avoid work; as much as we complain about work; as much as we dread the work ahead of time; effort feels good.

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So don’t worry about the times you didn’t succeed in the past. Just try again. Simply by trying, you can let go of the shame of previous inconsistency, silence your inner critic, applaud the courage it took to try one more time — and there it is!

The elusive motivator you’ve been seeking.

Trying makes you want to try again.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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You Might Mess Up

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I have an embarrassing story to tell you.

The other day, I auditioned for a musical performance with a local theater company. I’m a decent singer and actor, so I figured I had a shot. Unfortunately, the show involved tap dancing, which I’d never attempted. Truthfully, I’m not a great dancer, but I gave it a try.

It was, simply put, an unequivocal disaster.

That tap audition reminded me of some very vivid and terrifying dreams from my past, in which I’m standing on an empty stage while an audience stares at me in silence, and I can’t remember any of my lines or even the name of my character. I made a fool of myself in front of a roomful of people, surrounded by mirrors, wearing the wrong shoes.

You don’t want to face the reality that you might fail. I know. Neither do I.

You don’t want to face the reality that you might fail.

I’ll admit that failure does feel pretty awful … for a little while. After that, you laugh.

Let’s take a brief look at my biggest mistakes: blowing things out of proportion. Getting way too worked up about small issues. Letting my emotions run amuck. Delaying out of fear and indecision. Speaking hastily; saying too much; snapping at someone who doesn’t deserve it; flinging cruel words at the people I love — I’ve done these and more.

Would I list my recent tap audition among those failures? No, probably not. In my experience, many of my most shameful mistakes occur because I dread some supposedly worse outcome. Ironically, my resistance to failure often becomes my greatest sin.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

She greeted me, a nervous stranger, during the preview weekend for Colorado Christian University, before I became an official student. Her question made me uncomfortable.

“Um … I don’t know. Write a book, I guess.”

“So why don’t you write a book?”

“Um … I don’t know. It probably wouldn’t be any good.”

There it was: the fear. I didn’t want to begin because I might mess up.

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You will mess up. I wish that you and I could take a deep breath together, accept the inevitable mistakes that await us in the future, grieve for a moment, and then relax. You won’t gain anything by avoiding failure, but you could miss out on a lot of joy. Maybe you should ask yourself which would bother you more: messing up or missing out.

I’d hazard a guess that messing up won’t hurt as much as you think it will. Either way, since no one can avoid mistakes altogether, you might as well give yourself a break. That tap audition bruised my ego, sure, but my life didn’t end. Honestly, it’s empowering to discover that I can handle a little bit of failure. Plus, now I have an uncomfortably amusing anecdote to share.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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The Only Kind of Art that Matters

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Consume that which drives you to create.

My most artistic friend had invited me to the Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver art museum, so we swapped dressy outfits and went on a date. Everyone mistook us for sisters, anyway, so we figured we might as well wear the same clothes. College classmates had even tagged us in the wrong Facebook photos, confusing Alyssa for me.

One poor kid named Curtis never got our names right in four years at a small school.

Anyway, we stood in line to view a small selection of original works, some iconic and others less recognizable. Apparently, none of Van Gogh’s art would have qualified as famous in his day, since most people hated his paintings until after he died. Then, near the end of a dim hallway, I stopped in front of a cluster of purple aspens.

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He must have seen the trees near the edge of dusk, just before total darkness descended, to imagine so much purple in the shadows. He must have ached just to see them. He must have felt so deeply sad. He must have been longing for something, to paint them that way. I knew because I felt it, too. To me, he hadn’t painted merely a grove of trees. He had captured a mood that spoke from the canvas to my gut, and suddenly I needed to write.

Now, you should understand that I knew absolutely nothing about painting. I had gone to this exhibit for no other reason than to spend a fun evening with a friend … but staring at that image, I felt impatient to express myself, almost fidgety with a childlike urgency to play. Since I knew words better than a paintbrush, I wanted to get back in the car and drive immediately to the journal by my bedside.

The best kind of art inspires more art.

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The best kind of art inspires more art.

Inspiration goes way beyond temporary chills. True inspiration culminates in creative activity. Real art propels you toward your own form of artistic expression. Find that kind.

Today, I can’t find those purple aspens online. Maybe I remember the details wrong. Maybe Van Gogh didn’t even paint it! Memory does funny things — but picturing those trees, right now, I feel the same drive to create: a physical sensation in my diaphragm, spreading through my arms into my fingers. Five years later, I wrote this blog post because the artist shaped my opinion of the true purpose of art.

Seek out the kind of art that moves you to creative action. Don’t settle for passive entertainment or escapist distractions. Pay attention when inspiration strikes you in unlikely places, and then respond in your own way. I did this. You could photograph, draw, tell, dance, sing, film, act, or a thousand other marvelous things.

Who knows? The art that you create just might inspire someone else.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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You’re Doing a Good Job

I’m going to say this again because you need to hear it:

You’re doing a good job.

Keep going. Don’t get discouraged; don’t give up. Right now, you can’t see the progress because you’re too close to the situation. I promise you’re becoming something beautiful.

Recently my husband and I have been working on communicating better about a few hot-button topics, and it’s been rough. After three years of marriage, I noticed that we tended to repeat the same arguments, and every time those issues came up, things got a little more heated. It had finally gotten to the point where we weren’t talking about those subjects any more. We were only fighting about them. Something had to give.

We started trying to develop some healthier habits, but the process was extremely emotional. I came close to quitting because I didn’t see any difference. (Just to clarify, I considered giving up on the habits, not the marriage. We love each other a lot and are committed for life. Didn’t want you to worry.) Then, over the holidays, my sister made a passing comment about how happy and connected we seemed. It took me by surprise.

Really? We seem happy and connected?

Since then I’ve noticed it myself, but at the time my family’s encouragement gave me the boost I needed to keep trying. That’s what I’m praying this blog post does for you.

Now, because we’re sinful human beings in need of a Savior, I do need to acknowledge the possibility that you’re not doing a good job. Maybe you’re giving in to your fears. Maybe you’re harboring unresolved bitterness.

Believe me, I’ve been there. Back when I resisted marrying my husband, I knew perfectly well that I was allowing fear to rule me … but recognizing my failure didn’t help. After all, I didn’t want to give in to anxiety. At the time, I honestly didn’t feel like I had control. In that scenario, there’s only one thing to remember:

You may not be doing a good job, but Jesus is.

You may not be doing a good job, but Jesus is.

Looking back at my worst moments, God inevitably used them for my benefit. In that dark, dark season when I thought God had abandoned me, He was working toward a display of His glory that would leave me stunned. So if you’re not at your best currently, don’t sweat it. Trust God to be better. In the meantime, I’m here to reassure you that yes, you will get there eventually. Don’t lose heart.

I sincerely believe that right now, today, you are doing a good job. More importantly, however, your heavenly Father always does a good job — and He loves you so, so much.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

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