October 14, 2018

Part Thirty One: After The Wedding Bells

Don't you just hate an itch you can't scratch. Or a bug bite. That doesn't sound as poetic.

It's been a long time and life has been so busy, but I've felt the need to pick up the virtual pen. To be honest, I felt that I had written everything worth writing. But man, isn't that like watching a movie end and never knowing what happens? Where is the sequel that let's you know things stayed happily ever after? ... or let's you know what new adventures lay in wait?

So here we go. The continuing story. About 99% of the world will never care, but for you dear reader, should you stumble upon this little corner of reality and find you'd like to stay, I'm about to continue the most divine story my heart could never dream of imagining.

Let's see. How do I jump back in?

Ah yes... bright and burning October, 2014. We just returned from our honeymoon in the The Berkshires (not the Shire. That's a different place entirely). Here was the plan: we would house-sit from some friends in Wolfeboro, NH (and at the same time have free temporary living quarters) for two weeks. Then we would travel to NC to another temporary home until January 2015, at which point we would head to Arizona for Jacob's job training as a Edward Jones advisor. We would stay in Arizona for 6 months before returning home to NH to set up base. I would continue teaching martial arts and Jacob would get to work on financial work.

The drive to our temporary home in Wofeboro was terrifying. It was late at night by the time we made our way to the Wolfeboro house, as we had driven straight from the Berkshires to my parents' house earlier that day.

It was cold. I was tired. And nothing is as dissatisfying as going to a strange house when you are cold and tired. We unpacked what we needed and went inside.

Maybe it was because it was dark and windy. Maybe it was because this house was tucked in the woods away from the main road. But I promise you. I felt like we just walked into a haunted house.

Our bedroom was on the third floor, tucked up in a loft room of sorts. There were lots of pine bugs. Jacob had to go on the war path constantly. 

There was old wallpaper and wood everywhere. It was a post and beam house, so I didn't expect anything different. It was just very quaint in the day spooky in the night. 

There was a dog named Daisy. She was older, golden, and all over the place. She also escaped from the house and jumped in the backyard pond on our first full day. We had to keep her on the back porch for a few hours to dry her off because wet, pond-y dogs don't smell so great.

Attached to the house was a smaller, add on unit. The people we house sat for had this unit built on for their father/grandfather as he was older (and his mind wasn't as strong as had been). We had been instructed to keep an eye on him, so our door was always unlocked. This was both benevolent and terrifying, because at any moment he might pop on in for a visit.

The basement. It was a no fly zone. We heard some creepy noises down there more than once. Basically, if the lights were off, we dare not go anywhere downstairs because we were sure we would die from zombies and/or ghosts.

All this to say, let me not steer you to thinking we were ungrateful! But it was all so strange and different and alone. Jacob and I were a single unit, away from our families. It was marvelous and sad at the same time. It felt weird to be away from them all, especially in such a foreign place.

However, we had some sweet times. I wasn't working. Jacob wasn't working because we hadn't gotten to NC yet. We were poor as dirt, so there were a lot of meals consisting of boiled cabbage, tortilla chips and melted cheese, spinach, beans, rice.... all the cheap foods. We watched movies in bed, took walks under the foliage canopies, worked out in the backyard, and pondered our future. It was a lot of time to think and wonder. 

We had no clue what would happen. We believed God was in control. But that feeling of being on the brink... of not knowing... it was something we knew all too well. At the same time, we still felt ready for certainty. 

When those two weeks were up, we were ready to go to NC. Jacob was ready to start his temporary job working tree servicing with a family friend. I was going to keep working small time for BTB doing some minor Facebook advertising and teaching a fitness class once a week from Skype. It wasn't much, but we had each other and we were ready to fight  to make something of ourselves.

I remember packing up our stuff (it barely fit) into the back of my little red 2000 Toyota Echo. We drove from Wolfeboro to my parent's house around 1:30pm. Saying goodbye to my family was more surreal than anything. I wouldn't see them for a good year, maybe more. But my mind and soul were so full of adrenaline and forward motion. I was 21 years old and everything was on the fast track.

We drove straight through the night and didn't get to NC until 5am. We considered stopping and spending the night somewhere to break up the driving, but we didn't want to spend the money on a motel. Jacob was beyond chivalrous in driving the whole way. You read correctly. He drove all 1,017 miles. He wouldn't let me drive once. It was honestly something I was grateful for and am still grateful for to this day.

I remember trying to distract ourselves throughout the long drive. I remember being so afraid Jacob would fall asleep at the wheel (when really I was the one who was falling asleep!). When we finally arrived at Jacob's parents' house, we were so tired. Exhausted might be a better word! 

It was cold and dark, but it was morning. It was a new day and we were onto phase two of the journey! Just like that, our wedding was over. Our honeymoon was over. Our time in NH was over. 

Here we were in Mills River, North Carolina. At 5am. In the dark. 

There was an air mattress set up in the family room downstairs. Jacob's mom had decorated everything so beautifully for our arrival, but the my focus was on the fact that March 7th, 2013,  I danced with Jacob Clifton for the very first time in this same room. Now we got to snuggle up and fall fast asleep in that room.

The next morning felt so weird. We were married. I hadn't seen any of Jacob's family since the wedding. And now we were married. Ew. That sounded weird. 

Aubrey was the first person we saw. We jumped on her bed to wake her up. Not sure why this sticks in my memory, but it does.

We jumped right back into the action that day. Jacob's parents had planned a reception of sorts for all of the North Carolina people that weren't able to make it to the wedding. 

I put my wedding dress back on, Jacob got suited up, and we greeted everyone. In about 30 minute we had changed into athletic clothes and started a football game in the backyard. Sigh. We don't make the best adults.

After the party came the part I dreaded. Moving. Again. All the guests had gone home. It had started to snow, even though it was only October 31st! We hopped in the car only to realize... we had a flat tire. The flattest. It looked like a smushed doughnut.

In the snow, in my athletic shorts, I helped Jacob move all our stuff to the Ironvan (aka grey Clifton van that Jacob drove around back before we were married). We FINALLY packed up and headed to our new home. 

Once again, I felt so worn thin at the thought of another 'home'. Family friends of the Cliftons owned rental vacation properties, one of which they graciously were allowing us to use. No one vacations in Hendersonville in November, so it worked out well. Extra income for them, somewhere to live for us.

They said it was a cabin. It was kind of a cabin. It was very wood on the inside. A little run down on the outside. Lots of wood on the inside. Did I mention that?

We got what we needed and went inside. It was COLD IN THERE. There was a space heater, but I'm not really sure that there was any other source of heat in that building.

We didn't have a sponge. I'm pretty sure that was it. Jacob had to drive back to his parents' house to get something we forget. Pretty sure it was a sponge. Or toothpaste. Either way.

I remember being so proud and excited to have a home of our own. Not a a house sitting home. A real home. Our home. Sure, it had furniture that didn't belong to us. We wouldn't live here for long. But it was our home.

As we crawled into that new, strange bed with the new, strange blankets, I couldn't help but wonder what was happening with my life. Just 5 seconds ago, I got married. Somehow, the time slipped by and we were making our new life in North Carolina... a stepping stone to an even more beautiful new life that we couldn't yet picture.

Everything was changing and I couldn't hold onto anything but Jacob and Jesus. And I held on tighter than I've held onto anything in my life.

August 22, 2017

5 Things to Watch Out For When You Start Dating

...or courting. Or seeing someone. Or 'we're just friend-ing' with someone. Please don't use that term though. Please.

Regardless, here I am, well versed in the marriage/dating/relationship scene (almost 3 years of marriage counts for something right?). In fact, I like to think I'm in the perfect position to say what I'm going to say!

I've been married long enough to know what's up. I've also NOT being married long enough to know what's up. How's that for logic? And know what's up about what, you say?

...what to watch out for when you start dating someone.

Roll credits!

Just kidding. This is an important topic to me, because many of the relationship issues couples run into once they are married could have been avoided during the dating process.

This is not to say you can avoid ALL dangers pre-marriage! However, many of the signs/problems in dating can be excellent and telling signals of what is to come if you continue down the path without paying attention.

Let me give an example using my two favorite examples! Jacob and Beth, a couple months into dating:

Jacob: Hey, what do you think about spending money?

Beth: Um, you don't spend money. You save it. In fact, I eat nothing but rice every day to save money in case of emergencies. Why, what do you think about it?

Jacob: I like to make it rain.

Beth: Hm, this might not bode well.

Conversations like this might very well save someone from a weak or frustrating marriage. Let's get talking about the red flags to watch out for when dating someone.

1. Disagreements on Children

Nobody wants to talk about kids after having just met someone. At least I didn't. It's weird. And you've only known this person for a short time... say, maybe a month or two. And now you have to go up and be all like, 'hey, would we have 3 kids or 5 kids? Or no kids?'.

Don't worry! The conversation doesn't need to go like that! However, once you are comfortable and it's been a respectable amount of time (this really depends on you... but if you've been dating a YEAR and are quite serious and haven't brought this up, it might be a problem!), bring up the subject.

Not as in how many kids would WE have, but just ask them what they think about kids.

Do they want any? Do they even like kids? Would they homeschool them? Would they be free spirited parents? In might seem weird and uncomfortable, but you know what is really uncomfortable? Parenting with someone who is on a completely different page and/or begrudging because they didn't even want kids. Or, YOU didn't want kids, and now you have 20 of them. Could be a small problem!

2. Total Differences in Finances

...or minor differences in finances, depending on how picky you are! When I say differences, I mean really two separate things: differences in financial status and differences in financial spending.

Financial status change can be devastating to some people. To go from living in a well to do, upperclass family to suddenly being married and eating black beans for 3 square meals a day in a 2 room apartment can make someone go mental. Or, it could mean absolutely nothing, as long as said person is married and with their spouse, they won't care. It's all different for everyone.

However, it's important to bring up or at least observe in the person you are dating.

Secondly, pay attention to the way you and the person you are dating spend money (see my example with Jacob and Beth above ;)). If one of you spends a paycheck the second it come in, while the other waits, hordes, and saves everything ALL THE TIME, you might run into some spats down the road.

Money isn't everything, but you do need it, and everyone has a different opinion. Make sure the person you are dating doesn't have a completely different outlook as that could spell trouble for the future!

3. Lifestyles and Beliefs

You're an atheist. You decide to fall in love with a Catholic. Hm.

This is an extreme example, but the point stands- check out what lifestyle/beliefs the other person has going on. Don't be weird about it, but figure it out now rather than later.

If you're a strict vegan, can you handle living with someone who likes eating burgers every other day? If you're a peace loving, nature advocate who loves quiet serenity, how will you handle your spouse wanting to go shooting every weekend or playing loud, violent video games every night? Big government vs. small government? Messy vs. clean? Stays home all the time vs. has to constantly be on adventures? You get the idea!

Of course, the most important belief to touch base on would be, in my opinion, religious beliefs. Even if you are both 'Christian', dive into that. Modesty, church going, Bible translations, traditions, etc, all fall into this category and can be a HUGE method of bonding or breaking a relationship down the road.

4. Patience and a Spirit of Serving

Remember, the ultimate goal of dating someone is to find not simply someone you like, but someone who will make you stronger, better, and better able to glorify God each and every day. In addition, you are looking for someone that YOU can make stronger, better, and better able to glorify God each and every day. Two characteristics to look for, regardless of personality, are patience and a willingness to serve.

We all mess up. A lot. You want someone who is willing to be patient when you have those slip ups. Be patient with them too, as they will also mess up!

Marriages are built on patience. I've not been married that long, but I know well enough that patience in one of those things that when you don't deserve it is when your partner really needs to show it.

Ask yourself if the person you are dating is willing to be patient with you (you might already know based on experience!). Ask yourself if you can be patient with them!

Note: Patience does not translate to 'tolerance of everything'. Patience is the 'capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset'. It does not mean 'accept all wrong doing from your partner as the law'.

Patience should be a part of continuing to better each other- not to stay stagnant in the issues you both are working through!

As for a spirit of serving, I have seen first hand how marvelous it is to be married to someone who shows their love through their actions- not just to me personally, but in everything they do.

Jacob is constantly thinking of others first at work, he does so many things to make my life easier/happier, often with no reward in it for himself other than he knows it is right, he knows is makes me happy, and he knows it is helpful to others. This does not mean Jacob does nothing but help people! He does plenty of things just for him! However, beneath it all, I know he would drop everything to help and serve if/when needed.

Not only is a spirit of serving a marvelous quality to have in your partner, when they emulate service, it is super inspiring for you to be better, too!

5. There is No 'I' in Team

But there is ME. Hardy har. I know. The point is, make sure your special someone will be a team player. Getting married means you guys are in it together. Everything. All the things I've already mentioned and more.

But sometimes, people have completely different ideas of what 'being in it together' means. Some people think that means waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time every day, with every free moment spent together, doing everything together, ALWAYS.

Others might think it means eating dinner together, spending time on the weekends doing things together, and the rest of the time is spend on individual pursuits.

Neither one is wrong necessarily, but if you go into a relationship expecting someday to get married and live a very specific way only to find out things won't be that way at all, it can be a real downer for your marriage.

Get a good idea of what your teamwork would look like if you were married. Envision it. Again, it's not weird- because if you really like this person and are potentially going to marry them, better to find out what the deal is ahead of time!


You'll never be able to foresee everything. Hey, you could think you have everything figured out, you get married, and them BAM. Something happens that you could never have predicted.

Remind yourself of this: marriage is a proving ground for character, it is a cleanse that exposes sides of you (and the other person!) you never expected sometimes (for better or worse!), and it is an adventure that you will both want and NEED someone to be on the same page as you when it comes to the big stuff... not simply because it will makes your life a fairy tale, but because, again, marriage is about making you and your spouse better and better able to glorify God.

I can hear the cries of 'I knew they were the one for me, but then we got married and things fell apart! I made absolutely sure and things didn't work out!'. Or even, 'dating is supposed to be fun! Why would I ruin it with all this talk about commitment and marriage stuff?'.

You know what's really fun? A fulfilling marriage. An insightful dating process = a fulfilling marriage. It can also be way more fun, exciting, and meaningful when you take the time to make sure your marriage is built solidly!

I'm not God. Neither are you. We can't predict the future and we can't ensure a perfect, blissful marriage.

However, we owe it to God and to our future spouse (if you do get married!) to ask the hard questions early and set yourself up for success as best you can, while the consequences are still small.

You'll thank yourself, too!