I did not want to come home from Christmas vacation this year.
As my husband will attest, I grumped my way through long stretches of the thirteen-and-a-half hour drive through the snow from Deming, New Mexico to Littleton, Colorado. Going home meant returning to responsibility, which felt overwhelming. Dishes, laundry, cat litter, weary days at work, grocery shopping, lonely nights when my husband had to work late, and much-needed home repairs stretched before me with depressing certainty. I preferred to stay at his parents’ house, sleeping the mornings away and watching Christmas movies endlessly.
Then I actually got home.
Turns out, I missed my sweet kitties. It felt really good to exercise again. My stomach thanked me for a break from the rich food. I enjoyed my first days back at my job, and I discovered a fresh wave of motivation to get started on my goals for 2019. My husband even surprised me with Wicked tickets as an early anniversary gift, and then we watched a movie on the couch together.
So … what was I dreading, exactly?
Instead of boring, mundane, or difficult, my ordinary life turned out to be full of delightful moments. I loved my routines — even getting back to my own toothpaste made me smile. How had I forgotten so quickly? Feeling foolish, I found myself thanking God for this lovely life that I live.
Daniel Swanson Photography
Daniel Swanson Photography
My ordinary life turned out to be full of delightful moments.
Your life might not look anything like mine, but I’m guessing that you have plenty of reasons to appreciate your daily routines, too. Instead of complaining about tomorrow, maybe you could learn from my mistake and make up your mind to notice the little blessings. As I’m discovering, the day ahead is rarely as difficult as I imagine.
My mom meets me at Starbucks to watch old home videos.
She has recently taken a step into the 21st century by converting them to DVD, so we share earbuds and play them on her laptop, laughing so loudly that the other coffee drinkers stare at us.
They’ll get over it.
Viewing scenes from my past – many of which I don’t remember – a strange feeling swells in my chest.
I see my smaller self curl on the lap of my grandpa, who passed away a few years ago. A pacifier protrudes from my mouth; I’m wearing pajamas with feet in bright primary colors.
Suddenly it’s Christmas, and I hold an armful of plastic animals, surrounded by wrapping paper. A giraffe drops from the couch, so I turn to the camera with round eyes to pronounce, “Uh-oh!” Auntie Ann crouches next to me so we can play zoo together. My grandma comments off-screen.
A few moments later and many years older, I stand in a crowd of children singing the soundtrack to Mulan. A taller kid partially obscures my pale, nervous face. My little sister twirls nearby in a floral dress, oblivious to the performance. After the final song, I approach the camera to hear my mom’s praise, concern melting into a smile.
Jump to a wedding. The camera sways wildly before focusing on my fat baby brother. He’s unsteady on his feet, dressed in a little blue suit. He approaches a pair of skinny legs – mine – and lifts his arms, wanting to be held. I heft him onto my hip and wave his chubby fist, instructing him to smile at the camera.
The DVD ends in a few moments of visual fuzz. I allow the sounds of the coffeeshop to wash over me, considering the feeling that has been expanding inside of me since we hit play. It’s as if the little knots in my stomach have loosened. The tasks ahead; the conversations behind; these small cares that I carry with me have momentarily evaporated.
I am so loved.
Daniel Swanson Photography
Daniel Swanson Photography
Daniel Swanson Photography
Daniel Swanson Photography
In every home video, family surrounds me. As the first grandchild, my babyhood constitutes the sole focus of a large group of devoted adults. As the oldest sister, my childhood fills with firsts: the first student; the first performer; the first friend to my two sweet siblings. At the time I took it all very seriously. Observing the scenes years later, I notice something new.
There has never been anything to worry about.
All the events that consume my thoughts become nothing more than memories captured in film. One day, this moment will slip away, too. The fear will fade. In its place will linger the deep affection that marks me like a thousand fingerprints tattooed on my skin. I am precious. I am noticed. I am loved.
There’s a word for this feeling: perspective. When I witness my life from a distance, I recognize the consistent theme woven into every season. I am still the small child curled in my grandfather’s lap. I am still the nervous singer onstage. I am still the bossy sister ordering a baby to smile. Above all, I am the beloved daughter with a camera pointed at my face because I matter.
I leave the coffeeshop refreshed, alive to the details of this day. If I am my history, then I am something warm, safe, and happy. Therefore I may enter adulthood fortified by a past rich with tenderness.
It frustrates me that these undeniably attainable intentions often prove to be way too hard, so I try to celebrate the small victories. Last week, for instance, there were two whole days in a row during which I did not leave a single dirty dish in the sink. I also ran loads of laundry three work nights in succession. I even – get this – folded the clean clothes instead of leaving them heaped in my hamper. (Applause seems appropriate.)
So far my husband and I have lived in this house together for eleven months. Our two attempts at home improvement have been 1) painting a wall in the living room and 2) purchasing a beautiful dark-wood dining room table. Remnants of the original color still haunt the edges of our wall, although we did our best with painter’s tape. We’re immensely proud of our table.
Oh – we also recently bought a brand-new water heater, but that one happened against our will.
In order to prove to myself that I have made some progress over the past year (almost) of marriage, I’d like to record a few of the lessons I’ve learned.
1 – Call Your Mom (A Lot)
I tend to process verbally, and between a new job, new living arrangements, and a new relationship status, I’ve had a lot to process this year. My mother is the one person I can always trust to be totally interested in the details of my life. Grandmothers also serve this function exceptionally well.
2 – Do 1 Small Chore Each Night
I find that I have the most energy right when I get home from work, and even tiny amounts of effort make a big difference in the way I feel about my home. One simple task like taking out the trash, sweeping the cat food that inevitably ends up scattered across the floor – why, kitty? – or unloading the dishwasher doesn’t take much time. That way I can go to bed with a small sense accomplishment.
3 – Watch Netflix During Workouts
This isn’t really a new lesson, and I probably don’t “bring it” the way my DVD instructor would like, but at least I’m moving my body. In order to watch two programs simultaneously (workout + show), I mute my laptop and play Netflix through my husband’s Xbox. Most of my workout videos are familiar, anyway, so I don’t need to hear the instructor yelling at me to “get lower!”
To summarize, my improvements in the realm of homemaking have been minimal at best. I have a long way to go before I achieve the basic skills necessary for managing a household. My marriage, on the other hand, makes me so happy.
Perhaps when I review this year, instead of measuring my success according to the standards of functioning adulthood, I should remind myself that I didn’t get married because I wanted to run my own home. Homemaking didn’t even enter into the equation. I got married because of Evan. We say hello every morning and goodnight every night. We have wedding pictures hanging all over our house, and every time I look at them, I feel the same warm delight creep over me that I felt eleven months ago when I wore my beautiful lace dress.
I am living in the victory, right now, because we married each other. Those of you who know my story well understand that we walked through a scary, dark valley before entering this light. When I remember that, I look around myself and marvel at the happiness that shines on us now. We’re not angry or afraid because we love each other forever. We have our whole lives to work on things like vacuuming and scrubbing the bathtub. While we practice, we can go ahead and relish the joy that greets us every day.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD because he has been good to me.
Since we got married in January of 2016, my husband and I have been to the movies 19 times.
Before you start judging our financial priorities, we received a LOT of gift cards this year. (It’s like our friends and families know what we love.) Still, I’ll be the first to admit we’re a little obsessed. Movies are just so dang fun.
Because movies have played such a prominent role in our newlywed life, it seems only right that I review them here. Furthermore, as I tend to get emotionally involved in the films I watch, many of these stories have become intertwined with mine — for better and for worse.
My husband and I couldn’t talk on the drive home from this one because it hit us so hard. The men portrayed in this movie are true heroes. I’d recommend it highly, but I wouldn’t watch it again.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
This is probably my favorite movie — not just my favorite out of this list, but my favorite, period. We saw it in theaters three times and promptly bought the DVD when it came out. It’s the perfect blend of comedy, romance, and gore. Jane Austen’s social commentary doubles in irony when the Bennet girls are busy battling the undead … while still trying desperately to acquire rich husbands.
10 Cloverfield Lane
On the one hand, this story of three people trapped in a bunker gripped me and stuck with me long after. The characters felt real, and the scenario was loaded with suspense. On the other hand, the scenes that stayed with me were disturbing; I still feel slightly queasy remembering them. I have a low tolerance for horror, and this film crossed the line for me.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
I left this movie annoyed that I wasted some of our gift card money on it. What was with all those bewildering dream sequences? Why did Lois and Clark have zero chemistry? Why would Batman … never mind. The only reason I’d watch this again is to make a list of everything wrong with it and rant on social media.
Captain America: Civil War
Obviously these are great movies. This one did a good job of giving every character a piece of the spotlight — which I’d imagine was pretty difficult since there are so many Avengers now.
The Jungle Book
I didn’t really like this movie, but since I wrote my Senior thesis on fairy tales, I enjoyed analyzing it. I decided it portrays childhood as seen by a child: everything is terrifying, but you never really believe the monsters will eat you. [SPOILER ALERT] In the end, you get to do whatever the heck you want because you’re the hero. Duh. (This is how I explained the fact that Mowgli never went back to the Man Village and instead became Supreme Ruler of the jungle.)
Florence Foster Jenkins
This movie surprised me because it showed characters’ flaws without making judgements. It made me question the distinction between a good person and a bad one. Also, I both laughed and cried during the movie. Also, it’s a true story starring Meryl Streep. So … yeah, I liked it.
My husband loved this movie. Personally, I’m getting tired of movies in which godlike villains threaten to destroy the world. I would have been content to watch a group of unusual kids grow up in Professor X’s pretty house.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
This wasn’t nearly as good as the first one, which was a bummer because I liked the first one. It was visually impressive, but the story was just … boring.
Totally heartwarming. (I may have cried a little.) I’m a sucker for animated films partly because of the stories and partly because the animation can be so beautiful. This one satisfied in both areas.
Independence Day: Resurgance
Entertaining and unoriginal.
Star Trek Beyond
I appreciated how this movie didn’t take itself too seriously but still offered the epic battle sequences we’ve come to expect. [SPOILER ALERT] Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised to observe that Jim and the alien woman, by all appearances, didn’t fall in love! Instead, Mr. Spock was the one with relationship drama.
I liked it; my husband thought it was boring and lifted the plot scene for scene from other Bourne movies. [SPOILER ALERT] Scene one: woman Jason loves is killed. Scene two: injured Bourne limps at top speed though a crowded street. Scene three: bewildering car chase. Etc.
We both enjoyed this movie, probably because we were comparing it to Batman vs. Superman. I get excited about animation, and I really liked the neon pink-and-blue graffiti art. Additionally, the voodoo ghost woman looked amazing. Good job, CGI artists.
This is a really inspiring true story. The movie makes you live the experience.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
This film was so fun that we bought the book. We were delighted to discover that the book is even better — and its plot varied so much from the screenplay that it felt like a new story.
SO. GOOD. As soon as the credits started rolling, I was ready for a sequel. Ben Affleck made a terrible Batman, but he pulled off “autistic Jason Bourne” with flying colors. I laughed out loud multiple times. The hero himself was a fascinating puzzle, and I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen as I waited to find out who he was, what he’d done, and whether or not they’d catch him (all the while hoping they would not).
Based on the films we’re still planning to see, our count will total 23 before the year is out. Writing these reviews ended up being really fun for me — I stayed up way past my bedtime on a work night — so I’ll probably be adding Part Two in December. Thanks for joining in my indulgence with me. Feel free to post your own opinions about any of these movies.
I figured out the source of my blues from last month, and once again the blame lies with my least favorite word: transition.
This time, though, the transition wasn’t mine.
A few months ago, my husband quit his full-time job and went back to school to study computer science. We both knew – or at least trusted – that it was a good move for our future. Thanks to God’s provision and the generous support of family, we were (fairly) confident we’d be able to pay our bills. Still, it was a big leap of faith for my husband. I don’t think I realized how big.
I’ve always been the worried one in our relationship. I over-think small decisions. I am swift to consider potential problems, to the point that I sometimes squelch happy dreams. Any transition, even the positive ones, tend to leave me trembling with anxiety. This particular change, however, didn’t bother me.
I knew my husband was nervous about his first week of classes, and I was vaguely sympathetic, but I was far more interested in my own career. I had a good job; he would be fine. In fact, my main worry was that his homework might interfere with our hang-out time in the evenings.
A few weeks into his classes, I started to notice a change in our home life. We began quarreling far more frequently. It bewildered me. I’d come home from a great day at work, and we’d end the night with tears and angry silences. The fights were silly ones, but the mood between us had noticeably shifted.
I remember thinking, Maybe this is the hard part everyone warned us about.
I remember thinking, Maybe this is the hard part everyone kept warning us about when we got married. Maybe we just don’t like each other as much. The thought had barely formulated before I rejected it. We were still crazy about each other. We always would be. There must be a reason for the sudden tension.
The fact that I took so long to trace the source proves how clueless I was about my husband’s emotional life. Ever since graduating from college, he has tackled adulthood head-on. I’ve never known him to hold fewer than three jobs. Even now that he’s back in school, he works part-time for our church and runs his own business from our basement. Financial independence is hugely important to him, as is his vision of “success.” He frequently worries that he hasn’t achieved enough — that he’s progressing too slowly.
I don’t remember how the conversation started, but I finally got around to asking him how he felt about quitting his job. I quickly discovered that he felt he had taken a step backward — even though he knew this degree would benefit his future. In one clarifying moment I realized the tension I had sensed wasn’t about me. My husband was understandably stressed by a major life change. Perhaps if I had taken a more active look outside my own emotions, I would have recognized it sooner.
As I write this, my husband is totally rocking his classes. We’re paying our bills every month, and we still really like each other. The change continues to carry its stressors, but next time I feel the strain, I’ll look for practical explanations instead of assuming the worst.
I still hate transitions. I’m learning, however, that identifying the source of my blues can sometimes help cure them. Hopefully I’m learning a little something about empathy, too. Most importantly, this blip on our marital radar has reminded me that I’m not the only one facing uncomfortable adjustments. It’s nice to feel like a team again.
The last few weeks have felt a little heavy, and I’m not sure why.
The weird thing is, a lot of wonderful stuff happened recently. A friend of mine accepted Christ and was baptized. I got to be part of her decision. My husband played a gig in Vail, so we stayed for free. We spent an entire Saturday wandering in and out of shops, surrounded by mountains. I successfully produced a few live radio shows at work. During one show, I got to shake the hand of a WWII veteran who just finished an incredible sculpture — at the age of 94.
Seems like life would be feeling pretty good right now. For some reason, though, I’m having trouble shaking these depressive feelings.
The other night I got into bed feeling sorry for myself. My husband was up late with homework, so I was going to bed alone. Instead of turning the lights out and moping, I opened my dresser drawer and pulled out a book I’ve never read, one that I got for free. The first chapter was about reading God’s Word and applying it to my life.
It’s been a while since I spent regular time in the Word. Last year, when everything was so difficult, I read the Bible and prayed obsessively, begging God for answers. I think I wore myself out a little. This year I’ve backed off, trying to give my heart a break. I may have missed the happy medium.
Placing the book back in my nightstand, I opened Numbers and took a stab at application: reading a passage and then asking myself, “How can I obey these words?” It was one of those chapters about sacrifices, in which God told the Jews exactly how many goats they needed to slaughter every month. I had to use my imagination, but I decided my version of a daily “sacrifice” could be reading a brief Bible passage every morning and evening. I went to sleep feeling surprisingly refreshed.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
– Psalm 51:12, NIV
I believe God uses every piece of our lives to teach us about Himself. He’s using my job and the time I spend in church and the numbers in my bank account . . . all of it. I can still grow in the Lord when I’m not studying the Bible every day. Still, staying in touch with the Holy Spirit makes a difference.
I’m needing refreshment right now. A day off might help — and I was thankful for the three-day Labor Day weekend — but more than that, I need some refreshment of the soul. Reading a few Bible verses twice a day may not cure my blues, but it could help shift my focus. After all, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Something hit me at work today: I’m not afraid of my job.
I’ve spent most of my life being afraid of ordinary things. I hated giving people hugs as a kid, and I never wanted to say hello to acquaintances at church. Calling people on the phone scared me. Swallowing pills scared me. When I learned to drive, I was afraid of turning left. Studying for tests scared me – not the test itself, but studying for it. Having a boyfriend scared me, thinking about marriage scared me, and getting engaged scared me so badly that I almost didn’t do it.
Now my job is to ask people – really capable, interesting people – about their passions. My job is also to form paragraphs beginning with a hook and ending with a call to action. I am not afraid of those things.
My Junior year of college I spent a semester studying at Oxford University in England. While I was there I attended lectures that blew my mind, entered libraries that were hundreds of years old, and wrote poetry for homework. I also learned something about myself: I don’t particularly enjoy solo adventures.
I don’t particularly enjoy solo adventures.
All those hours alone in grand, silent buildings made me terribly lonely. This was a startling discovery because until that point I had considered myself an introvert who needed her “alone time.” I decided I could never do research for a living because I needed to work with people.
Fast forward to the present, and I’m participating in something I didn’t know existed. I do research, but it’s in-person research. Instead of taking notes in a library, I ask questions face to face, and I’m usually accompanied by a more experienced salesperson, so there’s not as much pressure.
Not being afraid is kind of weird. The same thing is happening with my marriage. I’m not nervous about our relationship; instead, being with my husband makes me happy, confident, and secure. Of course working full-time is an adjustment, and I’ve been exhausted a lot the past few weeks. Nevertheless, large parts of my life are beginning to feel … normal.
I like the feeling of normalcy, especially when I was expecting a scary transition. It’s nice to know I can be calm about the two most prominent features of my life, work and family. In fact, it feels a little like a miracle.
I’m realizing that I can’t always predict what will scare me and what won’t. The best I can do is accept each event with the emotions that accompany it and do my best to remember that God is involved. He knew I would be afraid of getting married. He knew I wouldn’t be afraid of this job. He let me go through both with my good in mind.
I still get nervous about ordinary things like waking up early or asking my boss a question over the phone. I’m thrilled, though, by the blessings that have begun to feel commonplace. Thank you for helping me enjoy them.