The past few months, Andrew and I have celebrated a few milestones: our six year wedding anniversary and our one-year anniversary of returning home to America. And both are worth celebrating for the same reasons: God has sustained us through big transitions and challenges.
Our six years of marriage have been filled with job changes, country changes, a new baby, and lots of travel. However, 2015 has been all about one thing - staying home. We haven't moved to a new house (despite my pining for a larger home - still working on loving my almost-tiny home). We haven't crossed international borders for the first time in almost ten years for both of us. We've settled into our jobs, our church and small group, our family and friendships, reintegrating into our community here.
And while our marriage stayed alive, it didn't exactly thrive in the heightened stress of daily adjustment. We were both tired and pressured by so many things. We focused on survival - food, work, keeping the baby alive, and maybe a little sleep somewhere. Date nights, weekends away, and time at home together - and the accompanying emotional closeness and self-forgetting love that helps fire up marriage - were sparse. And our relationship suffered for it.
Luckily, our church hosted a six-week long marriage class this summer. It was the first formal "marriage enrichment" we had participated in since premarital counseling. And the class shone a light on all the neglected areas of our relationship. It led me to repentance for a lot of sinful, destructive habits I'd relied on in moments of weakness and uncertainty - criticism, frustration, and seeing Andrew as the enemy instead of my comrade-in-arms.
So we started rebuilding - looking at each other with the same eyes (but maybe a bit wiser and less naive) that we saw each other with when we were engaged: loving and idealistic about what our life together could be. We forgave a lot. We stopped trying so hard to form the other person into our own image and celebrated the crazy, gifted, amazing human being God had given as our spouse. I said sorry a lot, and probably not enough.
The past few months, we've faced more challenges as Andrew studied for his professional engineering license exam. It sucked up a lot more time than I expected, especially in the past month, when our evenings were split between study time and Royals baseball games. But he took the exam, and it's over, and we are finding breathing space again.
For the first time (ever?) last night, we sat down together after the baby had gone to bed and played a board game - just because we had time and space to do something relaxing and non-essential together. Last week, we grabbed lunch together when my shift at work ended early and met at a bakery close to his office. And this weekend, we are planning on a date night to a new ramen restaurant in Columbus Park.
We are focusing on helping our marriage thrive by actually spending time together beyond home, work, and parenting. And because of the challenging past year we've had, we revel in these moments together. We know better than to take them for granted.
So I am celebrating what God has done in our marriage. He's gotten us through some really tough spots and used them to pull us closer together. And he is helping us love each other more deeply than every before.
If you're in a tough spot in your marriage, God is big enough to take on your problems, too. There is always hope when you're looking to the One who bore the burdens of the entire world.
And if you feel like you're in survival mode, I promise it doesn't last forever - just long enough for you to lean into Jesus and learn that he is enough to hold your marriage together.