Posts in The After Marriage Life
Till death do us part.

Brett and I vowed that only death will part us.

a laugh

When I really think about that vow for too long my eyes widen and sink back into my skull as if I'm trying to look at our live and marriage in full but can't get far enough back... I wonder how long we have till death parts us.  Some days death seems so close, and some days it seems like a dream, far and fuzzy. I honestly think 'Till death do you part" is supposed to be overwhelming, unexplainable, and fear-inducing... because then it leaves room for the kind of love that's work, the kind of trust that takes time, and the kind of awe that points to God.

On our rainy wedding day, Brett and I covenanted "death in love, not death of love." And how abundantly we believe that we (and those around us) will live if we pursue one another in the ways in which we believe we were created to... never to let a "creeping separateness" as Sheldon Vanauken would call it, slowly come between us as the years go by.

I thought I'd share a few marriage decisions we made before we were married (and a few made since we've been married) in our fight for "death in love".

If life circumstances are permitting, we get into bed at the same time every night. He gets his homework done before bed so he doesn't have to stay up late working on it and I try my best to leave my work at work  so I can be present during this sacred time. So if I'm in bed at ten, he's there too, even if I end up falling asleep while reading next to him, we're there together. To cuddle. To talk. To get on the same page. To read the Harry Potter series out loud. To be still.

We won't call each other out in front of other people. I know how deeply this would hurt Brett if I called him out for doing something wrong, embarrassing, rude, or mean in front of others. Even if Brett or myself is in the wrong, bringing it up in front of others isn't the place. And let me be straight with you: Its tempting to bring it up right then and there, because being married to the person that said something stupid in front of everyone else immediately associates you with the stupid thing they said. You feel responsible. You wonder if everyone else thinks you're okay with that stupid thing they just said. Calling them out, even if we think it would make our spouse learn his or her lesson...would crush them. Pulling Brett aside, going into another room, talking to him about the situation afterwards; those are all ways I can show him respect without deflating his identity. He cares so deeply of what I think of him, and if his friends or colleagues see me put him down or argue with him in front of them, he loses self-esteem and confidence that is important to who he is. I can see the look of joy on his face when we are in front of others and I mention how grateful I am for him or how excited I am about what he's doing in our lives and marriage. This might sound simple, but I can't tell you how often in my lifetime I've observed couples who do this with each other and one of them ends up deflated and hurt. How often I'm tempted to nag Brett or get onto him for saying something I think he shouldn't have said in front of the company we are in. How often he works diligently to not criticize a decision of mine in front of my students or colleagues.

Choosing better, not bitter. My mom taught me this one and I'll forever cherish these words because they are some of the most difficult words to live out. Oftentimes, when expectations are not met, bitterness can creep in, making the heart seep with loathing & regret, sucking life from it's dweller and anyone they surround themselves with. That goes for marriage, friendships, work relationships, and family relationships. Already in my life, and especially in my marriage, I have been dealt cards that make me want to turn bitter towards my circumstances or situation. For short seasons of our marriage I've chosen pity parties and bitterness instead of choosing to positively take steps forward, accepting the hand I've been given. When I choose joy and choose to move forward (not loathing myself or Brett) I am living in the love I covenanted to Brett. When I choose to not regret and not just cope with my circumstances, I am choosing to live freely in the present for the sake of the joy-filled future. We could waste our lives being bitter towards each other. Many people do. We are choosing not to.

No blame or grudges. Pointing fingers at each other or blaming our circumstances on the actions of the other person (even if they did do something wrong or made a mistake) will be a temptation, but not an action. Brett will forgive me. He will offer me patience and grace when I mess up or even walk away from what we value or hold to be truth. He will continue to cheer me on, love me, and protect me as his wife like he vowed he would. And he will move forward with me, even if the consequences of my actions effect him. Blame leads to bitterness.

Date night. It's a mandatory must. Similarly to our going to bed at the same time, date night offers us a sacred time to slowly reflect on our week and ask, "How were you really this week?" or "Is our marriage making the most of this season?". Making DN a habit was easy for us after coming out of a long distance relationship, where busy schedules and intentional time to talk HAD to be scheduled. I need time to express my weekly reflections and I know Brett is unhindered in school work or tasks so he can freely listen and respond. And I care to know not just how Brett analyzed his week, but how he is feeling, which is sometimes hard for him to express without my asking. I love that date night gives us a space to do that. I value not just where his mind and heart are, but where his feelings are in relation to those things. This is a night where we attempt our best to not allow phones. Where we get off campus every now and then or order pizza in without feeling guilty about "being lazy" (because sometimes dates in are more of what we need than dates out). Where I beat Brett at MarioKart... most of the time.

Hospitality and Realness. Open doors, open homes, and open hearts. We desire to head up and initiate such deep and vulnerable community for those we live amongst and work with. That means being real with my students when Brett and I are having a difficult week. It means moving past surface conversations toward heart conversations that reach into joy, pain, and that sort of human authenticity we all secretly crave. It means taking them out to eat to celebrate or let them know that whatever circumstance they are in, we are for them. It's making posters in my apartment while watching Harry Potter. It's reaching out to hold their hand or play with their hair because that's what their mom used to do when they needed to know they were loved. If Brett and I are not doing these things with one another, we often are not doing them for others. We must have these in both our marriage and our community.

Romantic Things My Husband Says.

IMG_9959"Love is holding hands, brushing teeth." -Brett Stine, brushing our teeth before bed, while holding hands.

"What's wrongggggg?" -Brett Stine, a few minutes before studying for his Latin quiz, chasing me around the house with an open bottle of whipped cream in his hand.

"I'm sorry." -Brett Stine, often.

"I like how you put on skirts in the morning ....and I really like them ...and then I think it's funny when you change into jeans later." -Brett Stine; on those 'I feel like wearing a skirt" days, but realize later it actually feels more like a "I can only handle jeans today" days.

"Remember how you said you can't remember what life was like before we got married? Well, I can't remember what life was like before we started eating six can soup." -Brett Stine, after finishing his 3rd bowl of six can soup in a span of two days.



She is loved.

Four words: Long Distance Relationships. Eeesh.

I've rocked an LDR before. For two years. It ended pretty well. We're married now, so....

Here's what it looked like....

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with what an LDR feels like, read EVERY WORD in this paragraph:

Long Distance Relationships are the best.  Anyone can do them. They aren't draining or frustrating at all. Hard work? Nah. Everyone who gets into a long distance relationship either gets married or engaged, and LDR participants practically never cry ugly face when they long for and miss their significant other. Making out too much never happens. Ever. LDR's are just as romantic as Rachel McAdam-y movies.

Now forget that paragraph, it lies.

Thanks to Brett and I's LDR, I'd like to think I have an amazing perspective on what it is to choose patience and trust, to work through deep frustration, and to choose present over future. But what I so intimately have learned from Long Distance, is that my desire and yearning to see Brett at the end of every four to five months, was, and is, nothing compared to the Fierce Love God has for me every second of every day. To me, everything comes back to the love of God.

During those two years of LDR-ing I wrote something that contrasts the love I had for Brett with the love God has for me, and it gives me peace and gratitude tonight as I re-read it again:

Patience is one of the most difficult virtues in light of passion and love. Miles away turns into light years. Heart beats move beyond pitter-patter to soul-deepening Cello strokes. Eyes close not wanting to open until one's love is standing before them. Motivation for all else is a flickering light, threatening to leave me in darkness. 

But there is a Light that is Greater, a Motivation that is Stronger, a set of Eyes that see beyond me, a deeper Soul Melody, and a Friend that is so close I feel them inside me. The Someone who created passion, who holds more passion for me and the rest of the world than I could ever have for just one person on this earth. 

Jesus. He saved me and gave himself for me. He has more patience with me than I know. 

These are words from a woman in love...

...because she IS, SO loved. 

Do you believe God is fierce for you? That He screams love at you and for you? Do you get what that means? The intensity of it? Do you long for some sort of love like that?

I do.

"God’s love is meteoric,     his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic,     his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness     nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse,     slips through the cracks.

How exquisite your love, O God!     How eager we are to run under your wings, To eat our fill at the banquet you spread     as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water. You’re a fountain of cascading light,     and you open our eyes to light."

What to do when you start realizing you are married... FOREVER.

Early morning and here we are, husband and wife, escaping to the coffee shop pre-work day. Exactly one year ago today, Brett set a ring in front of me and I said "yes" and he said "yeah?" and I said "yes" again and "the question" never really got popped... and that's okay. As our marriage has progressed these crazy few months, we've started a few "ways". Stine ways. A few weeks ago we started our early-morning-once-a-week-coffee-escapades, because life and work are crazy and some mornings Mr. Coffee just doesn't do it for us. I love starting my day here, and I love watching others begin their days here as well. I love that coffee shops have become Brett and I's common bond with our local community. I especially love it here, when it's still quiet, open, and waking up. Bible, journal, thoughts, prayers. My soul is nurtured here.And Brett. Soul nurturing alongside me. We both need this. We both are matching shirts today on accident. BOTH of us can barely lift our arms today because SOMEONE Stacie thought adding weight lifting to the summer gym regimen last night would be a new/fun idea (TONED ARMS SHMONED SHMARMS!! As my RA's would say, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. My body hurts).

"We both" are two of my favorite words lately. But for awhile after we got married, those words overwhelmed and frightened me.

I was so full of joy when we got married. Writing my vows to Brett was one of the deepest and richest moments of my life. Saying them was exciting. Hearing Brett's loyal, genuine, and Christ-like vows to me was something I'll never forget. The love Christ has put in Brett to love me is crazy huge and sweet. It comes down to this: Brett's a no good lover without our Jesus. Hallelujah.

Our Marriage, like EVERY SINGLE ONE, has had its phases. Honey moon phase. Realistic "Oh we are married forever" phase. Growth phase. Challenges Phase. I love serving my spouse phase. "Why can't they serve themselves?" phase. "I'll instagram their beautiful face until I die" phase. Kissing a lot in public phase. "He lets me put girly pillows on the couch" phase. "Oh this is what Jesus meant when he said that" phase. "Sit on the other side of the couch please" phase. And my favorite, "No fun until you shave your face" phase.

The "Whoa we're married forever" Phase hits home today. The first few months Brett and I were married I would have these panic realizations that I was married to Brett forever (As long as earthly forever is). That  the money I'd use to buy new furniture, crafting supplies, food, my entire J. Crew closet (of course), and expensive camera lenses with, was "our money" and that some of those purchases wouldn't actually happen because I shared that money with Brett. And then I'd think, "Why do you have to share your money with the person you're married to, that's so not fair." The second day on our honeymoon the independent recently single woman in me had an internal freak out...I was committed to Brett for the rest of my life. I had made the unbreakable vow. I was filled with fear that I'd done the wrong thing... and I couldn't go back.

I mean this so much when I say: I don't regret getting married. A few months ago, Brett and I were getting coffee with one of our wonderful couple friends and they told us that one of their fears their parents had for them, is that they would regret getting married to each other a few years down the road. Marriage is not something God created for us to regret. No matter how difficult it gets. If I ever choose to live in marital regret, I'm closing a door to what God can do with my marriage and even my dreams. I'm closing a door to covenantal obedience and God-given grace. Christ committed himself to me, I covenanted my heart to Brett--- and loving Brett is understanding the love of Jesus. And loving Jesus is understanding how to love Brett. All other thoughts, are selfish and fear-driven, and I do not wish to live in those fears.

My best friend is getting married this week. Yesterday I texted her asking for her panty size and three hours later I realized it was her birthday and I hadn't even told her how special she is. I'd only asked about panties. UGGHHH. DON'T EVER TRY TO BECOME MY BEST FRIEND I'M NOT A VERY GOOD ONE. We have been "besties" ever since first grade. We remember each other's teeth pre-braces and, to our chagrin (a word I learned pre-braces), we remember each other with braces. We tried out for the same roles in musicals, and liked the same boys more than once in high school. In college, we fought for our friendship through lots of distance and telephone calls and we laughed and cried for each other from afar. We live in different cities today, but you can bet Amber made sure to show up to my engagement to Brett, and I made sure to show up to hers to Nick. She walked down the aisle at my wedding 7 months ago, and I'll walk down the aisle at hers this week.

I am joyed for her.

And my heart for her this week... is that in her marriage phases she'll love the joy of this week, she'll embrace the "fearful overwhelming forevers" later on in marriage, she'll relish in the days she'll delight in sentences that start with "we both", and she'll cling fast to obedience on days when tempting regrets come knocking at her door. My heart is that no matter what, she'll choose joy. Forever.



[I've been reading Jen Hatmakers blog a lot lately, and, come to find out, adopting children has similar phases to marriage. So, on a completely unrelated BUT YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO READ THIS note, her blog post, "The Truth About Adoption: One Year Later", enlightened my heart in all areas adoption. And really has my heart beating for what adoption could look like for us in the future.]