Five Lessons Learned in Five Years of Marriage

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all! In the last couple of days, especially with Valentine's Day coming up, I started to reflect on my relationship with Dan. This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the day we met (WHOA). And this May will be our 5th wedding anniversary. FIVE years, guys! I know that is so minuscule compared to those who have been married for fifty years, but it just seems so crazy to me to reflect back and think about all the bumps and blessings we've encountered over the years. 

Prior to being married, I had a very naive view of marriage. I thought marriage was just continuing life as it had always been, just with a spouse, bills, and responsibilities. (I'm shaking my head as I type this... it's a little embarrassing to admit my naivety) 

I didn't realize that marriage was work. I guess you can say, I viewed marriage as the perfect Pinterest life. Then I got married literally less than two weeks after college graduation. And the real world hit. Changes came. Bills came. Responsibilities came. New jobs came. And wow. I found myself facing the biggest culture shock of my life. Things got messy and heated. And because we were so young, looking back now, everything we argued about was petty. We were so immature if I'm going to be completely honest. Through it all, we both grew, we learned, we loved. God has been so good and gracious to us. Had it not been for His grace, we probably wouldn't be where we are today.

I jotted down five things that I learned in five years of marriage just as an encouragement. There are many more things I could say, but these, for sure, have been the biggest lessons I've learned.

 
 

ONE || Communication is key.

I always heard this growing up and into college. I heard this at church. "Communicate with your spouse." I thought, "Well, DUH! That's a given." On paper, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, it's not as easy as you may think. I cannot tell you how many times Dan and I have had a miscommunication because one of us thought we said something that was clear, but it really wasn't. You have to learn how your spouse communicates best. Here's a small example: for me, if Dan tells me he needs something from the store, he can't just verbally tell me. I tell him to text it to me.

Communication goes farther than just the verbal. It's also the body language we give off. Again, so many miscommunications have happened because of the misreading of body language. I think as women, we are naturally more animated with our gestures and intonation. We may not realize the signal we are giving off and sometimes that causes our spouse to misread it. And here is where we just can't assume. We either need to open up and let them know what we're feeling, or we have to ask the other what's going on. Having that open communication in a relationship is so important!

One thing that helped Dan and I really learn how to communicate with one another was by learning each other's Myers Briggs personalities and our love languages. He is an ISTJ and I am an ISFJ. We are alike in some areas, but then we are very different in others. For our love languages, we both scored high in quality time, and I also scored high in acts of service. In studying our Myers Briggs and love language, we learned a lot about the other person, even though we had known each other for years. It really helped us take our relationship to a new level.

PS: You can take a free Myers Briggs test here and the Five Love Languages test here (also free).

TWO || Create non-negotiables.

I strongly believe marriage needs non-negotiables that both the couple agrees and adheres to. Some matters should not be grey. I believe that in creating non-negotiables, this helps create the firm foundation on which your marriage will be set upon. Every marriage and every couple is different, so not everyone will have the same non-negotiables. But it is so important that a couple is on the same page in building their marriage. Here are a couple of our non-negotiables:

- Big ticket items (aka pricey, expensive items) are always discussed with the other spouse. There are some couples out there where the husband will just come home with a new gaming station and flat screen tv without the wife knowing, or the wife will come home from a $500 shopping spree without the husband realizing it. And some couples may be cool with that. This is a no for us when it comes to expensive items. We always discuss the wants vs. needs as well as the budget. And this is never one-sided. Like I never call the shots on what Dan can buy and he doesn't call the shots on what I can buy. It is always a healthy discussion and we usually end up in agreeance with the other.

- Never talk negatively about the other to other people. Y'all. This is so important! I have witnessed other women talk so disparagingly about their spouse. And it wasn't a "I'm so annoyed right now because my husband forgot to pick up dinner." I feel like that's a normal frustration. Life happens. I'm talking about, "my husband and I had a giant fight about XYZ and he said this and I said this . . ." I'm talking about intimate, personal things that should not be shared beyond the home. When this person overshared information, I couldn't help but think negatively about the other. And for a while, every time I would encounter that person, it was just weird for me because I felt like I knew too much. It just makes for a very uncomfortable, awkward situation, especially when it's something intimate and personal. I don't want someone looking at me and my husband differently because of something I overshared. I don't want to ruin my husband's testimony. And if it ever got back to him, I know he would be not just upset, but immensely hurt. And this goes for him as well. We also never share personal things on social media. That's just a plain NO. Let me encourage you-- if there are issues in your marriage in which you have to complain, please see your pastor, pastor's wife, or a counselor of some sort. They can best help you without having a bias.

THREE || Compromise is essential.

So, compromise seems to link back to communication. When we are in disagreement over something, it's natural for both of us to stay stuck in our ways. I can tell you from experience, without compromising, disagreements just fester until they explode. And then no one is happy. Here is a super silly example that happened recently. After church one Sunday, Dan and I just could agree on where to eat. We kept going back and forth and the whole "you choose, I'm not choosing" ensued. Both of us were just tired and hungry and on top of that frustrated with the other because we weren't communicating properly which resulted in a lack of compromise. We ended up going home and I made some pasta and chicken and Dan went out to get Whataburger. The end result was just annoyance and frustration with one other and wasted time. Once Dan got back from Whataburger, we smoothed things over and discussed how ridiculous the whole thing was. But that didn't bring back the time we wasted. Again, that is just a silly (and laughable example.)

Another real life example, that doesn't involve any arguments is our bedtime routine with our daughter. This took a bit to figure out since we were first-time parents adjusting to a brand new life. But Dan usually gets her bottle, and I change her diaper and put her pajamas on. Sometimes, we'll switch this. But we've found that in doing this, both of us are working together to put her to bed. Some nights, Dan will just do everything to take a load off of me, and I'll do the same if he's had a hard day. 

One area that seems to be a big thing when it comes to compromise is hobbies and activities. We shouldn't have to pretend to looooove something because our husband does. And we shouldn't expect for our husband to looooove something because we do. But we should appreciate their love for fill-in-the-blank: football, hunting, sailing, fishing. And I would hope they appreciate our love for fill-in-the blank: make up, scrapbooking, shopping, etc. Where does compromise fit in? It fits in when we do what the other person loves, and not because we are dragged kicking and screaming. And maybe it's not even something we do with them, but it's how we appreciate their love for their hobby. I don't expect Dan to do Pinterest home crafts with me, necessarily, but I do appreciate it when he acknowledges what I'm doing, or offers to help, or even takes me to Hobby Lobby. I've learned in doing things with Dan that I wouldn't otherwise do, I learn a little bit more about him and I do appreciate his love for whatever hobby he's into.

There are bigger issues in which compromising is key to a healthy relationship. We cannot be stuck in our ways and marriage is always give and take. Have you ever witnessed couples in which it seemed like the relationship was just one-sided or just called all the shots? To me, it always seemed like the other spouse looked miserable. Again, compromise goes back to having that open communication with one another. 

FOUR || Continue dating...especially after the honeymoon phase is over.

I didn't realize this until we had Elli because that's when our life of two became three. And you mommas know babies and kiddos throw a loop into that settled life of just husband and wife. Before Elli was born, Dan and I went out all the time. If we wanted to grab some fro-yo at 8 PM, we could just jump in our car and go. If we wanted to have a 6 hour movie marathon and just veg, we could. But boy, oh boy, when Elli came along, that came to a screeching halt. But before I get into that, in the three and a half years we had just the two of us, in all those dates, it was just nice to sit back and relax and reconnect. Like I said earlier, both of our love languages are quality time. In going on dates, we were able to just open up with one another and talk about anything and everything. Whether it was frustrations at work and how we could solve the world's problems, our dreams and aspirations, our next vacation, our goals-- really anything. It kept us from pulling apart after heated arguments and debates. Dating helped us stay connected to one another and not be married to our jobs. Our dates were never fancy. I mean, driving around town running errands was a date for us. It wasn't the money spent or food eaten that made our dates a date. It was the quality time.

So, how did that change when Elli was born? And how did we continue dating? When Elli was born, we were thrown into "first-time parent survival mode." And everything we had learned about marriage, like communication and compromise, kicked into high-gear. We both set ourselves aside to take care of this little girl who was entrusted to us. During that time, Dan was unemployed and we ended up spending a lot of time together taking care of Elli. I don't think we even went out on a date by ourselves in the first three months of her life. But that was okay. Our dates consisted of figuring out how to best take care of Elli, whether it was 2 AM feedings or cleaning up baby messes. Dan was able to find a job right around the time I was going back to work from maternity leave. Again, with our very different schedules, we had no time to go on dates. Our dates consisted of quick phone calls or text messages, just to keep that communication open. During that season, I really missed going on dates with my husband. Our situation changed again as he decided to go back to school for post-graduate work. Thankfully, this really stabilized his schedule and our days are pretty much in-sync. We don't go out as often because we do have Elli, but we make sure to still have those dates. Whether it's hanging out in the living room after Elli's in bed, or going out to dinner, even if it's with Elli since she's too young to really understand our conversations anyways.

In our season of "date-less" nights, as I like to call them, I realized how easy it could be to continue life without really dating my husband. I could envision just getting so wrapped up in taking care of Elli, and if all we did was focus on our kids, we'd forget about each other. I don't ever want to look at my husband and say "who the heck are you?" when we are empty nesters. I want to always keep dating my husband and grow our marriage.

FIVE || Keep Christ at the center.

This by far is the biggest lesson learned. Our faith is so important to us. In fact, it is the foundation of our marriage. I will say though, there have been times where our focus had shifted off of Christ and off of each other. There was a time early on in our marriage where our focus wasn't centered on God. And that time was rocky. We were selfish. We couldn't agree on anything. We argued over stupid stuff. I speak for myself when I say that my focus was solely on myself. And I wasn't happy. I was miserable. We were going to church, but really, at that time, we were just going because we knew we had to. I didn't want to go to church. Praying seemed to be a chore. I just mentally churched out, especially after spending four straight years at a Christian college. And I think we both were. But, God kept working us separately. We both knew we had to make a change, otherwise, we would just be miserable. We knew the reason of our misery as well and that was the fact that we had shifted our eyes off of Christ. We were sinking, just as the apostle Peter started sinking when he took his focus off of Christ.

We ended up going to different churches. We needed a fresh start and wanted to go a church where no one knew us. Where no one had high expectations of us because of our last name. We decided we would go to church because we wanted to, not because we had to. And we didn't go to every service, just as we had growing up with our families. We wanted to make sure our relationship with Christ was honest. In this time, our focus started to fall off of ourselves and back onto Christ. Once we focused our eyes of Him, our marriage started to circle around Him. We started to feel that joy once more. We started to see blessings flow. We were communicating better and our marriage was again blossoming. Slowly, we started getting back into church and going to Sunday and Wednesday services. And now it's not because we're forced to go. It's because we want to and value to time we have to worship Christ.

We had gone through a few personal trials over the years, and maybe one day I'll share my personal story, but for now, I will say that had it not been for Christ, I wouldn't know where I would be today. He is the ultimate comforter. He has shown me grace and mercy. He has been our rock through hard times. Through it all, God had proven to us time and time again that He is faithful. With each trial, it has brought us not only closer to each other as a family, but it has also brought us closer to Him.

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Phew! That was so much longer than I intended, but I hope it was an encouragement to you all. I am just so in awe of the last five years, and I look forward to the next five hundred years with Dan.

If you are married, what are some lessons learned over the course of your marriage? If you aren't married, maybe you've witnessed some fine examples of marriage and could share lessons from those couples. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day with your lovelies! XOXO

Reading Goals 2017

My dad was a big advocate on reading to "expand the mind" and he always encouraged me to read. In fact, in kindergarten, my school librarian had some sort of surgery and my dad was her nurse. I guess he told her that I went to her school and that either 1) I needed to be challenged in reading (kindergarteners could only check out picture books)  or 2) I needed to check out more books. 

When the librarian was well enough to go back to work, I remember she announced to my entire kindergarten class that my dad had operated on her and continued to gush about how great of a nurse he was. I was thoroughly embarrassed. But then, she called my name and told me that I could go to the chapter book section. As my eyes lit up, her eyes narrowed and peered over her wire glasses -- "But only Kaycee."

I was so excited! I remember checking out the Amelia Bedelia and Cam Jensen series. As I grew older, I loved reading American Girl, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Babysitters Club, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, and anything else I could get my hands on. I'm sure this thrilled my dad. In fact, every Friday after school, if we were good, he would take us to either the local bookstore or the library. My book collection grew and I never went anywhere without a book. #miniRoryGilmore

I was pretty much like this until probably about high school. We did so much reading that I found myself not really reading anything for fun except Christian fiction, like Lori Wick, Robin Gunn, and Karen Kingsbury. Then, as I got busier with extracurricular activities, graduating, then going to college, I really wasn't reading anything at all, unless it was homework. If I did read, it was something fluffy.

I really became lazy with reading, and that's not okay with me! Reading cultivates the mind, encourages empathy, and broadens your knowledge. I believe it was Dr. Suess who said “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” My goal for this year is to start reading again, and not only that but read a variety of genres.

 
 

Modern Mrs. Darcy has a great 2017 Reading Challenge that I'm going to attempt this year. *Fingers Crossed* Here's my book list for 2017, thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy's Reading Challenge:

1. A book you chose for the cover: The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
2. A book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
3. A book set somewhere you've never been but would like to visit: Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
4. A book you've already read: When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke
5. A juicy memoir: Unsweetined by Jodie Sweetin
6. A book about books or reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
7. A book in a genre you usually avoid: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
8. A book you don't want to admit you're dying to read: ???
9. A book in the backlist of a new favorite author: ???
10. A book recommended by someone with great taste: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield
11. A book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven't read yet: The Road Back to You by Ian Cron
12. A book about a topic or subject you already love: Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley
Bonus Book: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

You'll see I have nothing down for numbers 8 and 9. So, I can't really think of any books that I don't want to admit I'm dying to read, nor do I have a new favorite author. At least for right now. Maybe they'll come to me in the next couple of months, but for now, I added a "bonus" book to my list.

Any other bookworms out there? I'd love to see your reading lists for 2017 and if you have any recommendations, please send them my way! 

Joy: February Link Up

Today, I'm linking up with Renee over at Mulling Over My Morning Coffee, and this month's word is JOY.

Mulling Over My Morning Coffee

Joy.

It's been a hot topic over at my house in recent days. We've found ourselves mulling over these next questions. How does joy differ from happiness? Where do we find joy? Why do we as Christians lose our joy? How do we get our joy back? How do we help other Christians get their joy back?

As I was taking a mental break from work, I remembered these Bible verses from Philippians. 

Philippians 2:2-4 states: Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

These verses really got me thinking about joy.

Where does joy come from anyways? Joy comes from Jesus! It comes from serving Jesus and serving others. I'm sure we've heard this acronym millions of times, but Jesus, Others, You. When we put Christ and others before ourselves, we start to see life from another perspective, specifically because we remove the word "I." We start to realize that joy is contagious to just to others, but even to ourselves. We crave to be more joyful which in turn helps us become more like the Master.

Joy is different than happiness. Happiness seems to be more circumstantial. For example, I can be really upset because of rain ruining my plans, but I can still have joy knowing that God provided the rain and that He cares for me. On the flip side, one can be happy for a moment but have a completely joy-less spirit. Happiness can be plastered on your face, but joy radiates from your spirit. We can be happy, sad, upset, or mad, but still never lose that joyful spirit. I will say though, it can be hard when we go through trials. Joy can be hard to keep, but we just have to remember the Lord. We have to remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength. When we lose sight of Him and when our joy starts to fade, that's when bitterness starts to creep in.

To fight for our joy when trials and hard times come, remember to:

ONE || Stay in God's Word. Do a word search and find verses reminding you of being joyful. 

TWO || Remember God's Goodness. It's easy to get trapped in the "woe is me" attitude, but as a Christian, we've got to snap out of it. We need to remember the big picture-- that God has done so much for us. His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts ours. 

THREE || Thank God for something He did for you today. In order for us to fight for our joy against the bitterness creeping in, we've got to focus on the positive and thank Him for it.

Joy.

It's such an encouraging topic to think about and I know there are so many other takeaways and perspectives regarding this little word of three letters. To read more on joy, check out Renee's link up and share your posts. I'd also love to hear from you in the comments below!

I'm Back!

A new year brings new adventures. And today, I'm kicking off my "new" blog! Welcome! I'm Kaycee and I hope you stay a while. In a nutshell, I'm a wife and momma to a cutie-pie little girl. We have two pups-- PIper, our obnoxious, overprotective, yet loving and loyal mutt, and Carl, our laid-back, Mr. Chill, boxer.

 
Me and My Love

Me and My Love

 

This blog was originally The Emerald Life, and last year, I just wasn't feeling it anymore. I wanted to talk about life on the emerald coast of Florida, but let's be real. I just had a baby and we had no time to go anywhere and explore our gem of a state. My "niche," if you can even say that, had turned into mommy updates every now and again, and even then I didn't blog consistently. I decided to just take a break and think about my next steps.

 
#Ilivewhereyouvacation

#Ilivewhereyouvacation

 

Towards the end of last year, I started reminiscing about my previous jobs which was a supervisor over college-aged girls and my year as a cheerleading coach at my high school alma mater. As I scrolled through social media, I realized how much I missed interacting with those girls. It also struck me that girls and women today are constantly attacked by society. The theme of "you're not good enough" has seemed to run rampant, even among Christian circles. I started to remember those chats, and some very hard conversations, I would have with my girls on different topics and it was always been my heart's desire since high school to encourage others. I don't have that voice anymore as I've switched careers, and I was a little sad about it. But, I realized that I could use this as that platform. There is just so much negativity. We need to combat that with encouragement. So after a little work and planning, I finally decided to take the plunge.

Here you'll find my talk about:

Faith || My faith is very important to me. To be honest, I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have Christ in my life. He has been so, so good to me and my family. You can read a little bit of my testimony here, and eventually, I'd love to share more of my story as an encouragement. The journey isn't always easy, but God is totally worth it.

Family || Along with the title of "wife," I recently added the title of "Mom" (or as my little one says 'Mum') and those are a huge part of who I am. Marriage and motherhood is hard stuff, y'all! Mom guilt is real. I had no idea. Every now and then we, wives and moms, need a break, some encouragement, and a good laugh and I hope to bring that to you.

Friendship || 

"Marilla," she demanded presently, "do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?

"A—a what kind of friend?"

"A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my innermost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all my life." (8.35-37)

If you know me at all, you know that Anne of Green Gables is my favorite story ever. I love the friendship that Anne and Diana cultivate as best friends. That is something that we are sadly lacking today. Whether it's because of social media and our cell phones, we need to bring this back-- cultivate true meaningful friendships. Not just a "hey, I saw your status update on Facebook" sort of friendship. Friendship, or a sisterhood as I like to sometimes call it, is so important. And we need to start bringing this back to the next generation.

That's pretty much what you'll find here. I am not a cook, so you really won't find any Pinterest-worthy recipes-- although, you may see the occasional #nailedit. I do love crafts, but I'm not terribly original, and a lot of my ideas come from Pinterest. While I love shopping and clothes, I'll be honest, I rock my yoga pants and Jadelynn Brooke t's like it's no one's business, so you won't see any fashion posts. While I'm not a cooking, crafty, fashionista blogger, I do love reading those blogs, so if that is your niche, share below! Let's be friends!

You can find me on Bloglovin', Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (links above and below) I'd love to connect with you!

A New Perspective

Last Saturday, my husband and I went to the funeral of our friend and high school classmate. I'd known the guy since the 6th grade. He and my husband became friends in 12th grade when my husband transferred to our high school. I remembered him as unassuming and a little goofy. He was often on the sidelines, but thinking back to high school, he was a friend to everyone. He was genuinely a nice guy.

A funny story about our friend: he inadvertently invited himself to Dan and my first date in college. We had already been interrupted three other times by other people (who were harassing Dan about taking a girl out), and just when Dan and I started to talk about "us," our friend saw us from across the restaurant and headed our way with a Monster in hand. He pulled up a chair to our two-seater and started talking with us. We thought he was going to leave, but he had ordered a cup of coffee and a mint chocolate chip bowl of ice cream. I remember he kept telling us that he really had to go to the library before it closed to do his paper, but then it didn't matter because he was going to be staying up late anyways. He finally figured out that he crashed our date and left. Whether or not he went to the library, I don't know.

In the last couple of years, our paths crossed a few times as we would stop by the store he worked at. We always tried to make it a point to say hi and talk to him. Actually, a few months ago, he helped us load our deep freezer into our SUV. I think that was the last time I saw and talked to him. He was still the same carefree, easygoing guy I knew in high school.

Walking into that funeral home was the hardest thing to do. I had been so shocked to hear he had passed, but when I saw the casket, I couldn't look at it. I couldn't look at the slideshow of pictures. It was just too much for me. As I spoke to his parents, my heart broke for them. I know our friend is in heaven, and I know that he will no longer suffer, but it still wasn't easy. How could someone I know from childhood, especially someone so young, pass away? I think that's what has gotten to me most. You never think that it could happen to someone you know, especially when we are all still in our twenties.

Our pastor actually spoke on this message the day before our friend died. I had missed the service due to a migraine, but the pastor said that when we've completed our purpose here on earth, that's when God calls us home. Our friend's purpose was fulfilled here on earth. He made people laugh and was a friend to all. And right now, because of his untimely passing, I can say that I now have a new perspective on life.

We aren't promised tomorrow. I've always been an impatient planner. I want the latest and greatest. The next event. The next milestone. The next, next, next. I've been so consumed with the next steps. But, through the events of last week, God has shown me to slow down. To enjoy the moments I have with my husband and daughter. To cherish the time I have with my parents. To take advantage of the friendships I have and to let my friends know I appreciate them. To put down the phone and talk to people and make those true heartfelt connections. To be kind to strangers. To forgive and release. To live life intentionally. To live for Him today. To love Him more today.

Life is too short to live with regret.

Make the most of today and live. 

My high school class on our Senior Trip to Washington DC

My high school class on our Senior Trip to Washington DC