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Monday, January 11, 2010

We embrace our conflict!

     Marriage can be tough. Even tougher when you add outside influences to a relationship you thought could stand up against anything.  Back in our previous sunday school class, Jim & I participated in a marriage/parenting series led by a pastor in the church and his wife who had been married for like 30 years and had reared 3 or 4 children ranging from high school to college & career ages.
     Three very important points they made during the series have stuck with Jim and me ever since then. The first and second is to periodically assess your marriage and your children. -Where are you, how are you doing? What can you do better? What changes need to be made? I'd say we do this quite often. The third and most appealing point they made is that ALL good marriages have CONFLICT. We embrace this one really well!!! It helps to know that there is going to be conflict and that it is okay that there is conflict. It's not the end of the world. The important aspect is how you respond to that conflict. 
nbsp;    We thought our first year of marriage was GREAT. It wasn't hard, we didn't have to try at the relationship. We hadn't known each other long so we were still learning all kinds of neat things about each other. When I was pregnant with Taylor, our first son, we had just been married for a year. Our house was on the market and we were preparing to move to Washington, D.C., for Jim to work for his company on Capitol Hill. It was exciting and sad all at the same time. Nesting and setting up a nursery didn't really get to happen as I had thought it might, except we did have a really clean house. We opted out of doing a "nursery" so our house would show better. We didn't buy a crib for Taylor until he was 2 months old and we had already moved to our 2-bedroom high rise condo just inside the Capitol Beltway. Sure, our marriage got tougher, but we attributed it to the stresses of moving to a new place, totally out of our comfort zones and to being new parents.    
By the second pregnancy, we were house shopping in Fairfax County, VA.  I was going to get to nest and set up a nursery finally!!! WooHoo...but during my 7th month of pregnancy, merely 8 weeks before my due date, Jim's boss called. It was a Tuesday morning. The look on his face said it all. "Jim, I know we just told you last week you would be there for the long haul, I know you just put a contract and deposit down on a house just 3 days ago, but we have decided to close the D.C. office, we now realize we can not reach the world for Christ through political means so we want to bring everything back home and use you in a different way back here in Tupelo. You can let Candise decide, you can come back before or after the baby comes. It is your decision." We flew to Tupelo 2 weeks later to finalize some housing stuff on the house we had decided to buy, which was in construction at the time. And 4 weeks after that call, we made a 2-day drive back to Tupelo, MS. A house without countertops, a bathroom vanity or having dust, dirt and workers all around isn't the best environment for nesting or setting up a nursery. It was not a great experience to say the least. Andrew arrived 4 weeks after we moved back to Tupelo.
     The stress that would come with adding a fourth to your little family hit us by storm. It was hard. There were outside influences as well, but mostly, we allowed the stresses inside our home to get to us the most. We were full of joy, but the happiness wasn't always there. It was hard to embrace the conflict at some points. We didn't always respond to it in a godly way. We probably both said things we will regret, but we don't even remember them now. But along the way, through our respective Bible studies and quiet times, God showed us that marriage isn't only work, it's hard work. We weren't communicating, Jim walked on egg shells around me. He never knew what kind of mood I was going to be in when he walked through the door every evening. I chalked it up to hormones, exhaustion, and that darn job that uprooted us from what I had just gotten familiar with and a 'new' house that kept having problems that I had to deal with while he was at work, trying to stay socialble so I wouldn't lose my mind, and all the while mothering 2 little boys.
     I never thought Jim could do good enough by me in the house. He in turn thought I had some pretty high expectations of him that were simply impossible for him to meet. We thought, man adding that second child sure does change the first one didn't! We were completely avoiding the fact that we were out of the honeymoon stage, we were going to have to really really work hard if we wanted to have a great marriage. Don't get me wrong, we knew we were doing good, we knew it was a valley and we'd climb out, but we wanted a GREAT marriage. We wanted to be above the status quo.
     We got on our knees, we asked God for help. We did more than half of the Fireproof dares with one another and journaled our progress along the way. It wasn't always easy. I don't think I remember a single thing from all the dares, except that it was hard, but fun. We learned it wasn't going to be easy all the time like it had been in the beginning. Now, we put in the extra effort to do things that relieve stress for the other. Jim has become more aware of things I do around the house, and where he can, he takes over. I know he loves loves loves a tidy house and despises clutter...I'm still working on this one, but I am contiuously getting an A for my effort! I try to look more appealing to him, making it easier for him to want to show me the affection I so desire. {Note to self: sweats aren't attractive after 5 days in a row!}
     This weekend we sat and assessed our marriage.  We are happier than ever before. More in love than ever before. Even with me complaining and groaning everyday of this pregnancy, and him, taking on a second job, just for the fun of it, we wouldn't want it any other way, well, except we'd like for this little girl to hurry and rear her pretty little head! We know that we are so much better prepared for the arrival of our third child than we were our second. We have prepared our hearts and marriage for the hard stuff that we know will come-the lack of sleep, less alone time together, more mouths to feed-so tighter budget. We've laid out our expectations and our apprehensions this time. We have been blinded to them in the past. I was just telling Jim that getting to nest without having to worry about selling or buying a house has meant the world to me. I have finally gotten to have a nursery-a little girl's nursery-even better!

     We aren't going into this naive, we know there are hidden foxes out there just waiting for us to walk by so they can snap at our tired feet, but at least we know they are there and we know what to do when they attack. We are excited and looking forward to all that God is doing and is going to continue to do in our growing family!

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