marriage

my husband’s greatest gift

One of the greatest gifts my husband will give our children is forgiveness without shame.

I grew up believing I had to apologize in a certain way before I could be forgiven. To prove my sincerity, I had to hang my head low, use a specific vocal intonation, and have tears in my eyes. Forgiveness was obtained through earnest repentance, and only maintained if I demonstrated over time that I wouldn’t do the same bad thing again.

Sometimes I would refuse to forgive others so I could feel powerful. I would give off an attitude of resentment to feel superior. Even after offering forgiveness, I would convey disappointment or passive aggressively remind them about it later. I wanted to make sure they still felt guilty. I wanted them to know my forgiveness didn’t come lightly.

I grew up believing people had to work for forgiveness. Or at least put on a convincing performance.

When I met Noah, he offered another way. He showed me forgiveness is not the reward someone earns when they act sorry enough. Forgiveness is choosing to not hold something against someone, whether it be an offense, mistake, or perceived flaw. Forgiveness depends on the one who gives it and not on the one who receives it.

I don’t recall a single situation in which he has not immediately forgiven me.

In fact, for the first year of our marriage, I never once apologized to Noah. Whenever he apologized to me, I felt emotionally reconnected, and didn’t see the need to humble myself and make amends for anything in return. In my victim mentality, I blamed him for every conflict and didn’t know how to take responsibility.

Noah never condemns me. Once he forgives, it’s not that he forgets, but he moves forward. He doesn’t hold it over my head. He doesn’t bring it up at a future time to make me feel bad. Whenever I apologize or confess anything to him, it always directly results in forgiveness and restoration.

Forgiveness is a tool to stay in relationship.

We want to teach our kids that forgiveness restores the previous standard and the past won’t be used against them. They are safe to mess up not because their actions don’t have consequences, but because we don’t live in fear of how they will behave. They are freely forgiven for the sake of love, and we hope they, too, will learn to forgive without prerequisite.

My parents still withhold forgiveness for things I’ve done years ago. It hurts less than it did before, but the pain doesn’t go away. I never want my children to experience this.

Noah and I believe earthly fathers play a crucial role in reflecting the father heart of God. The heart that stays engaged in relationship no matter what, that wants his kids free from guilt and shame, that is always ready to love and reconcile. The heart I never truly knew until Noah mirrored it for me, the heart that has changed my life, the heart my husband now shares with our own children.

Happy Father’s Day to the best father I know <3

 

the graduate wife, year one

Sure, he gets to do cool things, like have lab meetings in bars, dive in the Bahamas for class, tag sharks, prepare for a career, pursue his dreams. I bring home the bacon and cook it, too, but I never think of my life as being the working wife of a full-time graduate student. I’m just a grown woman with a grown job. Lots of adults do it. I’m an adult.

Our lives aren’t all that different from last year when we both had jobs. Spending and giving have decreased, savings are nonexistent, and our schedules aren’t the same, but my husband is so much happier going to school than working the jobs he used to have. It makes it financially easier that we aren’t directly responsible for any other living creatures, e.g. baby humans. It’s also emotionally helpful that I don’t have any deep-rooted vocational aspirations for myself.

MY FUTURE DREAMS

This past spring, I took a grad class towards a M.Ed. program I ended up turning down. This past summer, I took four undergrad classes towards my teaching certification. I discovered I don’t want to be a working student, at least not with my current job that often leaves my brain thoroughly ineffective after 4p each day.

One day, I’ll go back to school, but I don’t know what I will study. One day, I’ll write a book, but I don’t know what I will write. One day, I’d like to run a hostel or bed & breakfast, but I don’t know in which country. One day, I’d like to get yoga instructor certified, but I enjoy my practice quite well without having to speak and pay attention to anyone else.

MY PRESENT DREAMS

I’ve been working at my school for two years now. Teaching at-risk teenage girls is draining, but it can be incredibly rewarding. I don’t get summers off, but I’m starting to accrue more vacation days. We share one car, but it only takes me five minutes to walk to work. I’m constantly on my feet entertaining my students, but I choose to never bring work home.

Noah’s current goals are primarily academic, but mine are personal. Right now, I just want to be healthy and whole. I want my body, thoughts, feelings, and spirit to be in the same place at the same time. And so, he goes to class and I go to counseling. He plays in the water and I play on my yoga mat. He publishes scientific papers and I write journal entries. We’re both going for it, individually and together.

SPONSORING THE WINNING TEAM

We have come to realize that our hobbies and interests are completely different. His masters is in marine biology, but I don’t really like animals nor do I care to understand a lot of what he’s learning. The interdisciplinary ideas pique my curiosity, but the various fish species bore me. And that’s okay. Being in different worlds makes our combined world even bigger.

I don’t understand how married couples have separate bank accounts. How do they do it? We’re one. We have one income. We have one family. Maybe when I’m a mother and he’s working on his PhD, it’ll feel more like a sacrifice than it does now. Research says that married men have better graduate student outcomes than single men. I like to believe that I contribute to my husband’s academic success. In fact, I know I do, and it makes me successful, too.

500 days of marriage

STARTING FRESH

A week after our wedding, we showed up in Pompano Beach (homeless, jobless, friendless) together, so we got to make lots of cute little married couple friends as a unit. We were Noah&Bethany from day one of Life in South Florida. In the beginning, while I was despondent and miserable, I really wished there were people here who knew me as I used to believe myself to be: capable, happy, fun-loving, and fancy-free; but in retrospect, it would have just been a safety net. To crawl through some of the loneliest and most depressing times of my life without anyone but my husband nearby helped me choose reality over escapism. I remember as a young’n thinking that, as a newlywed, I would call my mother often, asking her homemaker-esque questions and seeking advice. A great benefit of my damnation from her world has been the exclusion of potential lies that would have turned me against Noah. Leave and cleave all the way.

FAMILYING

In “starting fresh,” I denied my previously most intimate relationships the power to dictate the future of my marriage, but that does not mean I did it all on my own. During our first year, we were very deliberate about reaching out, opening up, and finding people with whom to family. Twice a week for a year we had different people over for dinner. Many we never connected with again on more than an acquaintance level, but some became family to us. Now we are shifting from breadth to depth in our relationships.

With our “natural” families, we had the best holidays I ever celebrated. We spent Thanksgiving in New York with my step-dad, reuniting with family I hadn’t seen since middle school. We had a Christmas slumber party in central Florida with my second-cousin and her husband, who were also in their first year of marriage. My great-uncle hosted us for Memorial Day weekend and the Indy 500. We took a couple trips up to North Carolina to visit Noah’s family, and we had various siblings and cousins join us in our humble abode throughout the year. We planned months in advance to visit Noah’s parents in Wyoming; we bought our plane tickets back in July and have been looking forward to Christmas in Cheyenne ever since. Familying is intentional, powerful, and one of our first priorities.

BEING COWORKERS

Not every couple has the opportunity to work together; fewer couples may ever want to work together. Noah started teaching at the same school as me in April. There were seven teachers total, and our classrooms were across the hall from each other. At first, I hated having him there and was afraid to tell him as such. After recognizing unrealistic expectations I had placed on him to devote himself to our students, and after working through my own philosophy of teaching, I grew to love working with my husband.

Unbeknownst to us, Noah subconsciously motivated me to view work through his lens of valuing efficiency, at the loss of emotional attachment. In September, I started teaching four new classes without any curriculum. Overwhelmed, I worked hard to find resources and write curriculum, and had less energy for connecting with staff and students. One month ago, Noah transitioned out of his job and one of our best friends filled his position, and again, my relationship with work and with my husband changed. Work has been a catalyst that has brought much to the surface. It is invaluable indeed to have shared this part of our life together, and for Noah to be so intimately acquainted with how I am currently processing it all.

SAVING OUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT EVER NEEDED SAVING

It’s called Love After Marriage, but it is a workshop that goes beyond words. This is our second time participating in the 18-week course, but there is no such thing as “doing LAM twice.” I have fresh ears to hear teaching, new eyes to discern root issues, and a heart transformed to release offense and initiate reconciliation with greater willingness. I flip through my workbook notes and observe how issues that used to be so present in my life are now nonexistent. I see tangible growth through how I approach relationships, how I process hurt and pain, and how I claim blessings. The times Noah and I fight grow ever fewer and farther between as we learn to truly work through and deal with our stuff. I am so thankful to have invested in our marriage in this way. Our hearts have been so cleansed this year.

July 13, 2012 to November 25, 2013: These were the first 500 days.

love after marriage

This past year, there were often times, for one reason or another, that I wanted to skip Wednesday night youth group, Friday night worship service, Sunday morning home fellowship gathering, or Sunday evening Eleventh Hour School of Ministry session — but I never wanted to miss a Thursday night of Love After Marriage. If you know me and my love/hate relationship with commitment and social groups (on my list of things to deal with), this is a big deal.

Love After Marriage is more than just a marriage workshop; it is an identity course that targets a married couple’s identity of oneness through an intentional progression of spiritual, emotional, and sexual intimacy. Since it is fundamentally about identity, the class is applicable to any and everyone; in fact, Single Life Workshop is constructed from the same curriculum.

I wanted to do Love After Marriage because I had a fantastic marriage filled with mutual trust and good communication, and I wanted to go deeper. There were people from every background needing every sort of breakthrough: from the wise and experienced Bahamian couple – married 54 years, to elders in the church and other worship leaders, to newlyweds like Noah and me. We all needed something a little different and were met by the same Holy Spirit, who set the stage for revelation and healing in the deepest parts of us. I ended up learning more about myself than anything else, and it was exactly what I needed:

  • Breaking generational strongholds and getting rid of spiritual baggage: My tendency to live in the past stems somewhat because in the past, I loved my mom and I knew she loved me.
  • Differentiating godly grieving from self-pity: Seeing my friends’ engagement and wedding pictures always makes me sad. I am in the process of addressing pain and disappointment from events surrounding the beginning of our relationship. It’s slow deliverance, but good things can take time.
  • Learning to dream again: In March, I decided to pursue a Master’s in Social Work, was accepted and received my first-choice internship as a victim advocate with the State Attorney’s Office, and then decided to let my dream go.

Noah calculated that we participated in Love After Marriage for over 1/3 of our marriage. The 18 weeks of LAM correlated with so much growth, decision-making, and maturity that it is impossible to compartmentalize the results from other catalysts. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest personal blessings from the past four months has been our adoption into the Magua family. Dave and Sylvia were introduced as the parents of my incredible friend, Gaby. They soon developed into friends and parental-figures for us too.

I vividly remember February 21st, the first day of Love After Marriage at the Harbour. Shaila was giddy with excitement. “This is the fulfillment of my dream!” she exclaimed, contagious with expectancy. Little did the rest of us know, it was the beginning of the fulfillment of our dreams as well – even dreams we didn’t know we had:

  • dreams of nothing hidden
  • dreams of reconciliation
  • dreams of sexual freedom and blessing
  • dreams of unity as the basis of successful parenting
  • dreams of hope, of future, of abundant living

For me, it was the fulfillment of the primary dream I had moving to Florida a year ago: the dream of having a mother.

Throughout the course, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to be married to have the opportunity to be involved in Love After Marriage. Next month, Noah and I celebrate our 1 year anniversary, and we are in awe of all that we have learned in our first year being together. Thank you, Barry and Lori, for spearheading this ministry. Thank you, Igor and Shaila, for bringing it home. In such a brief amount of time, God has transformed lives, healed marriages, revolutionized families, and brought revival to our community – and this is just the beginning.

Looking forward to the fall semester :)

my husband & i never dated

We thought dating was stupid.

Earlier this week, we had dinner with my 87-year-old great-aunt Mishan. She is an energetic little Cuban lady who, as Noah describes, is “the happiest old person I have ever met.” Upon meeting him and hearing a bit of our story, she declared, “So you kept talking until you decided to get married!” which actually sums it up quite accurately.

Exactly one year ago on this very weekend, Noah flew thousands of miles to the States, and I took a midnight bus down from Amherst, MA to New York. We had talked via Skype for several months, and exchanged hundreds of emails, but had yet to spend time together in person.

Since I didn’t recall actually meeting him the summer of 2008, we were basically meeting for the first time. For the weeks leading up to February 10th, I remember simultaneously longing for and greatly dreading seeing him. An excerpt from one of the letters I had written:

I’m afraid. The other day, I asked you what you were afraid of. I’m afraid of commitment, of things that can’t change, of feeling trapped. I’m afraid of rushing life before I live it. I’m afraid of losing you without even having you. I’m afraid that spending real-life time with you will confirm how much this friendship means to me; I’m afraid that it won’t. I’m afraid that this is just a season, and that it will end…

I’m afraid because I know that that, at least, is true, and that I don’t know what will come next.

Oh, angsty young love ;)

Our relationship was almost entirely long-distance. The twelve days we spent together when he visited America were the only days we had together before getting engaged two months later, and getting married less than two months after that.

Since we didn’t have a “dating season,” the time we did have before I went to China to be engaged is very special. We spent a weekend in wintry New York and fell in love, which is in itself very magical, and a year later, we’re husband and wife, and the magic continues.

Happy one year meeting-&-falling-in-love anniversary, baby <3