An Honest Look at Marriage

Today marks our two year wedding anniversary. While there are a wealth of amazing memories that I could easily reflect on, today’s post will highlight the more real moments of marriage. For those of you in a long term relationship or marriage with your significant other, you know as well as I do that co-habitating and/or co-parenting with your partner is anything but a cake walk.

From the “I do’s” to the to-do’s, marriage is an ever-changing journey that challenges, tests, and illuminates our greatest strengths and weaknesses. After the mystique and beauty of the honeymoon, real life settles in and the less than ideal characteristics of our partners and ourselves, for that matter, start to show their true colors. Balancing a career, children, personal interests, and caring for a marriage, requires deliberate effort, calculated patience, and unconditional love.

Laundry, grocery shopping, yard work, general housekeeping, cooking, and all of the other components of managing a house can create tension if one partner feels like they are carrying more weight than the other. Our little people have big needs that require constant supervision and attention. Bills, unexpected expenses, and so many other details can cloud our perspective and keep us from taking in the beautiful moments that happen in the midst of all of this.

Marriage is difficult. It takes work that requires frequent introspection, a willingness to compromise, and a desire to honor your commitments to your partnership without exception. Through it all, we have to find ways to look beyond the hard times and reflect on the foundations that built our love story. Carry their love in your heart always. Cherish their help and honor them with gratitude and appreciation. Never stop believing in the person you promised your life too.

Today and every day is an opportunity to grow in love with your husband or wife. Let bygones be bygones and let true love shine through. Life is too short to let resentment take hold of our marriage. Each new day offers us a chance to reconnect, restore, and rebuild any foundational issues our marriage may be enduring. An open mind and an open heart are an integral part of a strong partnership. Live each day in love and let the little things go. In the end, they really aren’t worth our time.

Here’s to loving our other half with our whole hearts. Here’s to putting our best foot forward to be the best wife, mother, partner, and friend we can be. Here’s to saying, “yes,” even when we’d rather say, “no!” Here’s to loving deeply and forgiving often. Here’s to the beautifully chaotic love story that is marriage.

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Marriage is about becoming a team. You’re going to spend the rest of your life learning about each other, and every now and then, things blow up. But the beauty of marriage is that if you picked the right person and you both love each other, you’ll always figure out a way to get through it. – Nicholas Sparks

The Appreciation Room

Lent offers many opportunities for introspection and self-reflection. Through the practice of fasting, prayer, or abstinence, one can certainly learn a lot about self-control, sacrifice, and personal growth. Every year, I find myself reflecting on an area of my life that needs the most growth. This year I decided to improve my role as a wife, partner, and friend to my husband. In the hustle and bustle of life as a working mother, I often have little time to cultivate and improve in my role as a spouse. To help me in this spiritual journey, I’ve implored the help of a book that integrates scripture and a daily reading that focuses in on a specific character trait to contemplate and practice.

I found today’s reading to be particularly insightful. It discussed how each of us has an Appreciation Room and a Depreciation Room for our spouse. The Appreciation Room holds all of the positive memories and qualities that make our spouse stand out. Contrarily, the Depreciation Room possesses all of the negative qualities that tarnish our view of our spouse. Naturally we benefit most from our time in the Appreciation Room- a place we feel loved, content, and happy. Allowing ourselves time in the Depreciation Room, on the other hand, can be hazardous to our marriage. If we allow ourselves to dwell, revisit, or marinate in this negative place, it becomes very difficult to see our spouse in a positive light.

Sometimes it’s a bad moment, a bad day, or a bad week with our spouse that draws us towards the Depreciation Room. We’ve all been here at one time or another. It’s easy to allow our anger to fester and grow into resentment if we let it. After all, negativity only creates more negativity. Today’s reading opened a floodgate of thoughts and emotions for me and really forced me to come to terms with my own thoughts and actions. Do I allow myself enough time in the Appreciation Room to recognize and appreciate the amazing man who picked me to be his partner in life? Have I taken him for granted more times than I’d like to admit?

In life there’s no time like the present, to reflect on the little things our spouses bring to the table every day to make us feel special and loved. In a two parent home, it works better when you have a partner who works with you and helps you find balance and demonstrates appreciation for your efforts. It is so very easy to get caught up in the petty things that can cause us to lose focus on who and what is most important in life.

We would all profoundly benefit from revisiting the Appreciation Room of our spouse with more frequency. Pausing in the doorway to reflect on their kind heart, genuine smile, and the amazing gift of having their hand to hold in this crazy, infinitely beautiful journey called life. Treasuring this goodness will pay you back in dividends over the long haul. We all know there will be days when marriage feels like a challenge, but putting our trust in the good will lead us away from the negative thoughts attached to these more trying times.

Ladies, we’re human. We misstep. We make mistakes. We don’t always let our best selves shine through. But every day offers us the unique opportunity to start each day with a grateful heart. Living it fully, loving the ones most precious in our lives with our whole hearts, and extending gratitude to our husbands for their support, friendship, and love. Make time to visit your Appreciation Room and let is help you guide your heart to a more positive place with your spouse. #thelovedare

Five More Minutes

On my favorite local country radio station, a song by Scotty McCreery has been getting a lot of air time. The song evokes strong emotions and often brings me to tears as I sing along to Five More Minutes. 

“Time rolls by the clock don’t stop
I wish I had a few more drops
Of the good stuff, the good times
Oh but they just keep on flying
Right on by like it ain’t nothing
Wish I had me a pause button
Moments like those Lord knows I’d hit it
And give myself five more minutes.”

Holding Atticus tonight before bed as he fell asleep in my arms, I found myself silently singing the chorus to myself. Thinking about how quickly time passes and how before we know it these moments become nothing more than a distant memory.

A loved one we lost before we had a chance to say goodbye. A baby now going off to college before we’re ready to be emptynesters. An embrace with a loved one as you say goodbye and part ways until the next time. In our life, if we were only so lucky to have the opportunity to slow time, hit a pause button, and give ourselves five more minutes with the people we love and care about.

You know as well as I do we would all be so lucky if we truly could afford ourselves more time. But time marches on at the same rate every single day. It is up to us to soak up the beautiful moments, grow from the moments that challenge and test us, and give thanks for all of the little things that make our lives special and rich.

Slow down enough to savor a cup of coffee with your husband or girlfriend and get lost in the small talk that comes from two people sharing time together. Take the long route home when you push your children home in their red wagon after an afternoon at the playground and soak in the smiles and laughter. Give yourself five more minutes on the phone with your mom or best friend even if you have a mountain of to do’s piling up and savor the beauty of your relationship.

One moment at at time. One day at a time. Live it as though it could be your last. We never know when that day will come but allowing ourselves to marinate in these enriching moments will carry us along through the more difficult challenges life throws in our path. It will propel us forward and give us the grace, appreciation, and love to keep these beautiful memories close to our heart. Give yourself permission to give yourself five more minutes…

Carrying the Christmas Spirit All Year Long

The magic of Christmas is magnified when you look at the beauty and mystery of the holiday through the eyes of a child. Their excitement, joy, and wonder is wildly infectious and can help even the grumpiest Grinch find the spirit of Christmas in their heart.

This Christmas brought unique opportunities to bond as a family and share in the merriment of the season. Beautiful weather allowed for outdoor adventures at the local zoo. Liam almost lost his head in the mouth of a sharp toothed crocodile, and he walked into an incredibly cool opportunity when a zookeeper allowed him the chance to feed a giraffe.

An afternoon relaxing in the backyard with my parents and brother brought a low key vibe to Christmas Eve. Watching Liam race across the lawn with Atticus tracking his every move further solidified the adoration our baby bear had for his big brother.

Sharing glasses of wine with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, and family friends brought the magic of Christmas to life time and time again. Creating special memories for Liam by laying out the cookies and milk for Santa  and sending his elf off with a proper goodbye stand out vividly in my mind.

Constructing and decorating gingerbread houses brought great pride for Liam and a giant mess of frosting, gum drops, and hard candy. I’d gladly clean it all up again to see his eyes light up with pride at his unique creations.

Dressing up for Christmas Eve at my grandparents, toting the boys there in their red wagon, and exchanging gifts with loved ones were just some of the memorable moments that peppered our Christmas. Simple, child-centered, and at its core all about family coming together to offer gratitude and share in fellowship.

This Saturday, January 6th marks el dia de los reyes magos. This holiday commemorates the Epiphany of our Lord when the Three Magi found the truth upon meeting Jesus. In Mexico, this holiday holds more significance than Christmas Day. This is the day they exchange gifts and celebrate with food and family. A traditional rosca, one of my favorite sweet breads, is served with a tiny plastic baby Jesus tucked somewhere inside the bread. Tradition states that the person who finds the baby in their slice of bread must host a party within the month for everyone. What better way to continue spreading the Christmas joy than with a party on February 6th!

This simple tradition offers us a unique opportunity to reconsider how we approach Christmas. It truly doesn’t have to end on the 25th. The spirit of Christmas can live in our hearts for the remainder of the year. Through charity, acts of service, and random acts of kindness we can continue to share the meaning of Christmas with those around us. For children, this magic rarely loses its luster. They carry the excitement of the holiday well into mid February when their sights change from presents, lights, and trees to hearts and Valentine’s.

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Now just a few days into the new year, we have a distinct opportunity to reframe our pattern of thinking and approach this season of Advent through the rose colored glasses of our children. We are their models, their heroes, and the keepers of their hearts. Let us open our own hearts and minds to the endless possibilities carrying the season of Christmas into the new year could bring for us. What will you do to spread Christmas joy?

Grace, Giving, & Gratitude

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of holiday festivities, semester exams, Christmas decorations, cookie baking, and all of the other day-to-day to do’s. I’ve been hard pressed for time and found most of my blogging time being reallocated to hiding Liam’s elf nightly or spending my little bits of downtime with my nose buried in a book.

With Christmas less than twelve days away, I found my heart and head eager to share my sentiments with others, and so I’m finally putting pen to paper for the first blog post in almost a week.

Grace

Grace is defined as the freely given, unmerited favor, and love of God. Nothing more clearly articulates his love than the gift of his only son to save us from our sins. In the hustle and bustle that comes with preparing for the holiday season, it is easy to get wrapped up in the shopping and gift giving. While these are aspects of the holiday that allow us to connect and show our love for others, we also must find pause in our busy lives to recognize the true reason for the season.

It isn’t always easy to find opportunities to reflect on the miraculous story of Christmas  of how a humble man took a woman’s hand in marriage knowing she was carrying a son that was not his all because an angel affirmed his role in God’s plan. And at the center of this beautiful story, a baby was born on a cold, winter night underneath a blanket of stars with an incredibly full life of fellowship and faith ahead of him. In these last few days leading up to Christmas, let us open our hearts to the infinite beauty and grace of God.

In my daily life, I try to find grace in the simplicity of all God created- a breathtaking sunset, a fragrant rose, or a blanket of fresh snow. Miraculous things can happen when we least expect them to. Awestruck by its beauty, I was amazed to wake up to a backyard full of snow last Friday. To see Liam giddy with excitement about getting to frolic in the snow. Watching my high school students play with childlike abandonment as they waged war against one another in a snowball fight of epic proportions on our quad.

Grace truly is in the little things we often are too busy to notice. These simple gifts of grace and beauty show us God’s love each and every day if we allow ourselves to slow down enough to take it all in.

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Giving

A tenet of Christmas is gift giving. This act of love comes in many forms. Oftentimes we equate gift giving with lavish gifts perfectly wrapped and topped with a bright, red bow.  Sometimes, however, small acts of kindness prove to be just as special and can be far more sincere and touching.

For my coworkers this Christmas, fresh baked cookies, surprise Starbucks lattes, and unexpected kolaches during semester exams brought smiles and joy to many of their faces. For my son, giving my time to hide his elf every night is a small way I’ve brought surprise, wonder, and joy to his mornings. Brightening someone’s day with a sincere smile, an extra large tip, or a genuine hello can move mountains for the people who are on the receiving end of these simple gestures of kindness. Sharing quality time with the special people in our lives is another opportunity to give to the ones we love. This week, we let Liam stay up a little later than normal, so I could push him around in the jogging stroller on one of my evening runs to take in the Christmas lights in our neighborhood. He enjoyed seeing the fun decorations, but more importantly I loved the chance to give him these little moment to relish in.

 

Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is especially important. Taking stock of the infinite blessings we have, offering thanks, and appreciation for the gifts of family, friends, health, and prosperity.

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I am truly grateful for a loving husband who makes me smile, challenges me to be my best, and makes me laugh in the most unexpected ways. I’m far from the perfect spouse or mother, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my life with my Papa Bear and Baby Bears. My sweet boys, you light up my life. I carry your smiles, the sound of your giggles, and the happiness you radiate with me wherever I go. Being a Mama Bear, brings me so much joy. Marriage and motherhood bring with it their own unique set of challenges, but the memories and milestones far outweigh the difficulties.

Christmas is a season of faith, joy, and new beginnings. It’s an opportunity for us to grow in God’s grace, give to those in need, and offer gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. Wishing each and every one of you a blessed Christmas full of light, love, and holiday joy!

Quality Time Away from our Little Bears

After Thanksgiving, Sean and I retreated to Fredericksburg for our first weekend getaway since Atticus was born. Leaving him behind proved to be bittersweet for me as I’ve never been away from him overnight. However, our quiet trip to the Hill Country was everything we both needed and more. This quaint town offered beautiful weather, fun wineries, and great food.

My weekend away proved to be incredibly eye opening for me. In this last year, I have “mommed” so hard that I rarely if ever left myself much time for “adulting”. As a new mom, the learning curve was steep and like all things I take on, I met this challenge with unwavering faith, unconditional love, and the can-do spirit of a Mama Bear. While all of this was noble and well-intentioned, I failed to recognize how my moments as an adult slipped through the cracks.

Now a year later, I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to getaway with Sean. It was such a breath of fresh air to stay up late talking about life, sleeping in, and taking our mini vacation as it came- with no expectations other than spending quality time together. I’ve vulnerably admitted before that being a wife is not always the easiest thing for me; not because I don’t love my husband with all of my heart but because finding the balance in all of it can be overwhelming. Sometimes by default, he gets the short end of the stick because everything else in my day took more out of me then I have left to give him at the end of the day.

Fredericksburg provided an amazing backdrop to a perfectly spent long weekend with my husband. I am truly grateful and blessed for the moments we shared and the fun we had together climbing Enchanted Rock, indulging in delectable sage and butternut gnocchi, sipping cocktails and people watching, and being chauffeured from winery to winery in a cheesy stretch limo. The best of life truly comes in the little things!

The Road to Motherhood

The road to motherhood is not always a linear path. Sometimes a road less travelled leads us towards something our heart could have never expected. My journey started three and a half years ago when I crossed paths with a handsome widower’s online dating profile. I soon found myself falling in love with two incredibly special and unique individuals. One was a strong, motivated father who put his son’s needs ahead of his and opened his heart to the possibilities a relationship with me could bring. The other was a precocious toddler with beautiful eyes as blue as the sky and a smile that melted my heart every time his lips parted in joy. I could have never imagined my role as a mother would first start as a stepmother of a three year old, but I also can’t envision my life being any different because having Liam in my life has been an absolute blessing.

Two years into motherhood, I found out I was pregnant with Atticus. It was a rollercoaster of hormones, bouts of morning sickness, and a waistline that grew a little more every single day. As a little life grew inside of me, my heart swelled with love as I envisioned what this baby would be like when he made his grand entrance later that year. My life forever changed again when my doctor placed a precious 5 pound 15 ounce newborn in my arms for the very first time.

This last year has challenged me as a wife and a mother. It’s inspired me to be more mindful of the little things that make our lives so rich and meaningful. It has been eye opening, raw, real, beautiful, and unscripted. Life as a mother requires patience, a big heart, compassion, and humor. How else do you get through the messy parts of it like spit up, throw up, exploding diapers, and boogers for days?

Armed with all of this, I circle back to how this blog post started describing how the road to motherhood is not always a linear path. November is National Adoption Month, a month that signifies an important month for many children who find love, support, and happiness with their forever families. This is a month that will soon hold a very special place in this Mama Bear’s heart too as we will welcome a daughter into our lives sometime this year. This is a journey that started with a conversation over a year ago and developed into a more serious dialogue between Sean and I about eight months ago. Then this summer we started attending parenting classes and started the mountain of paperwork required to start this journey.

As public as I have been about my chronicles as a Mama Bear. This next step will be incredibly private. Because we are working with an agency contracted through Child Protective Services, until our adoption is consummated, we cannot post anything on social media about the expansion of our family. Our home study will be completed in the next few weeks and then we will cleared to begin considering little girls who would be an ideal fit for our family. I pray for my daughter every single day. I don’t know her yet but I can’t wait to meet her. I pray that her foster parents are meeting her needs daily and are making her feel safe and loved. Her past will undoubtedly require unconditional love, unwavering patience, and unfailing support to help her overcome and thrive. I know it will challenge me in ways I’ve never expected, but it will also only add to the rawness, realness, and beauty of my story as a mother.

The path to motherhood is rarely a perfectly straight line from Point A to Point B. My path thus far has shaped me into the mother I am today. A mother who loves fiercely, gives it her all every single day, and forgives herself when she falls short sometimes. I am far from perfect, but my heart is open and ready for this next chapter as a Mama Bear.