Thursday, July 31, 2014

On loving without borders

After honeymooning for a week and a half in Italy with Scott, I'm feeling full of things to say while also wondering how well this will all come through since I was awake for 24 hours traveling yesterday and will be working 5 of the next 6 nights.  Thankfully, my friends always seem to be ok with my messy trains of thought and haphazard expressions of truth on here.

As many of you know, Scott and I decided on a delayed honeymoon since we got married while he was in school, used a lot of our own money for a wedding, and desired a longer honeymoon in Europe instead of a traditional tropical one.  I must say that while a honeymoon post-wedding would have been wonderful, I'm so glad we took a delayed one.  After dating someone for 8 years, you'd think that you would have the other person figured out, that your fights would be more tame, that you'd know how the other would respond in any given situation.  Our first three months of marriage have taught me that, while I knew Scott fairly well while dating, I had so much to still learn about him in marriage.  And with that being said, I had so much to learn about myself through marriage.  Our honeymoon was no different.  I figured that we had been married for a few months and were kind of used to each other's weird habits, what more was there to discover?

You learn a lot about the person you love when you decide to take a trip involving an overnight transatlantic flight, over 24 hours of continuous travel on planes, (unairconditioned) trains, and your good old two feet (in a country where neither of you speak the language).  Our first day is one that I don't think either of us will forget anytime soon.  After not being able to sleep more than an hour on our flight over to Italy (our plan with going overnight was that we would sleep all night, arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Milan, and finish our traveling to the Italian coast with smiles abounding!), we then encountered problems once in the Milano Centrale train station.  I had pre-booked all of our trains but had to figure out how to print tickets at the station.  Our tickets kept showing that they were invalid when I entered our online code and my name;  after finally realized that they were somehow under Scott's name, we had 4 minutes to get to our train.  We ran, only to find that we were at the wrong platform, headed for Geneva, Switzerland, instead of Genova, Italy.  We checked the train tables and saw that our platform was on the complete other side of the train station, and we booked it.  I thought my chest was going to explode by the time we finally reached our train.  We hopped on and felt the train start moving beneath our feet as soon as I shuffled on board.  

These were our first "fun" honeymoon quarrels.  I was hangry (hungry and angry), hot from running, mad because our train promised a food cart and this was nowhere to be found (we ate a light breakfast on the plane but otherwise had not eaten a meal), baffled by the ridiculousness of our train ticket situation, and feeling like maybe this was all a mistake.  Why didn't I try harder to learn the language before we left? How would we survive the next week and a half with things like this going on?

Unfortunately, I can't say that this was an isolated incident.  We also had to run to catch our plane yesterday due to several train delays and major inefficiency in the Alitalia check-in process, but I think that by then, we knew how to handle the other person being stressed about travel.  We came up with worst-case scenarios (we would be stuck in Milan for another night, I would have to miss work, we would have to spend a little more money for a hotel, etc.), and then we just did what we had to in order to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

I always had a picture in my mind of what honeymoons were like, maybe because of the pictures friends post on Instagram and Facebook.  I thought that honeymoons involved lots of drinks with umbrellas in them, nicely tanned skin, complete relaxation, and pure bliss with your new spouse.  I'll tell you that our honeymoon was wonderful but NOTHING like what I thought it would be.  It was super fun but also very intense, exhausting, at times stressful, and not as relaxing as I thought it would have been. Still, I loved it.  And I loved Scott for loving me through my stress, my hangry tendencies, my clumsiness (tripping multiple times, falling off of my Vespa, etc.), my complaining about heat and too much walking.  On our honeymoon, he saw me in some of my most imperfect moments, yet he loved me anyways and helped me get through them.  

That's what I like to think marriage is about.  It's not about the shiny rings or how beautiful your wedding is, it's not about how compatible you are or the things you enjoy doing together.  And it's not about how Instragram-worthy your life and your relationship together are.  It's about loving the other person unconditionally, as Christ loves us unconditionally.  Marriage is about loving someone so intensely through all of their ugly, sloppy, imperfect decisions and words and actions.  And it's about showing them unending grace no matter the circumstance.  I'm glad that our honeymoon reminded me of that, and though I would have liked to have my toes in the sand with a tall piña colada in my hand as we tossed our heads back laughing until our faces hurt, I'm thankful for the challenges that our honeymoon brought.  Loving someone without borders is so incredibly important in marriage, and our honeymoon was not at all when I expected to learn that.  But I'm so glad I did.  

I should also say that I'm not trying to belittle our honeymoon in anyway.  I loved everything about Italy (particularly our time on the Italian Riviera) and learning a new culture with Scott.  But I think that it's important to know that they aren't all what they might appear to be (particularly for those who have yet to go on one.  I feel confident that even if we had taken one post-wedding, we still would have had a lot to learn about each other, maybe even more so!). 

August is here tomorrow and for that, I am thankful.  A few weeks ago I had mentioned that August was my month for renewal, and for dealing with all of my Monica closets.  I'm excited to tackle them and am looking forward to a renewed mind, body, and spirit.  I'm looking forward to joining a gym this month, finally becoming Cristina Davis (couldn't make it official until post-honeymoon thanks to travel regulations with names!), organizing and de-cluttering our apartment, stepping outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen, digging deeper into my study of the Bible, and focusing on writing more (both for blogs, letters to pen pals, and my sloppy manuscript of a book).  

Lots of love to you all and so happy to be back stateside with you.  Since I am looking forward to writing more this month, drop me your address if you want a new pen-pal... I have a never-ending supply of stationary and lots of fun colored pens to tell you things with! 


PS: Hoping to get all of our honeymoon photos organize sometime in August as well (maybe August is going to be busier than anticipated?), but here are some sneak peeks for now!

Florence sunset from Piazelle Michelangelo

Vespa tour through Chianti (hiding my battle wounds well)

Scott on our 8 mile hike through Cinque Terre

Sunset from Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

Our bikes on lend in Portofino

Scott taking the stairs to the sea in Santa Margherita Ligure

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monica Closets: Part II.

Sunset in Florida the night before my grandmother's funeral.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters. 

It's been longer than I care to admit since I last wrote anything.  I feel like I'm approaching writing right now with my tail between my legs, so to speak.  It's been a few months since I wrote about Monica Closets, but I'm back in a place where my Monica closet is about to burst open and explode all over the place.  Life has been an interesting sort of mess over the past few months, hence my lack of writing.  I was hopeful that life would slow down once our wedding was over, but it has done nothing of the sort.  I've travelled all along the East Coast solo in order to be make it to different family happenings-- my sweet sister's graduation, visiting my grandmother while she was in hospice care, traveling to Florida again for her funeral a month later, and making my first trip together with my husband to go home to visit family.  Most people my age love to travel, and I often find myself glued to my computer looking at beautiful photos they've taken, feeling that sense of wanderlust that our generation seems to have captured.  But the travel I've been doing has been emotionally draining.  It's been a lot of hours in a car listening to Taylor Swift, eating more fast food than I ever want to look at again, passing through beautiful cities and towns that I have but a moment to glance at, and tearful prayers for my family as I drive.

I don't mean to pain such a bleak picture, or to seem so negative, but the trips have felt very much this way for me.  I feel like Scott and I have finally laid a lot to rest this summer.  We've been through our first family death together and have seen what supporting the other person looks like through that; Scott was truly wonderful and so incredibly selfless through all of this.  He encouraged me to go visit my grandmother instead of returning home to Indy when she was sick after my sister's graduation, and he told me to spend as much time as I needed down in Florida once she passed, even though he was not able to come himself because of school.  I laid to rest, for myself, the pressure of being a perfect housewife.  I learned that I couldn't.  With working night shift and traveling for days at a time, I had to learn to accept help when it was offered.  I felt guilty about it for a long time; here was my husband, trying to study for his dental boards as hard as he could, and I was falling apart and needing someone to help me cook and clean and grocery shop because I was either not physically here, completely exhausted and sleep deprived, or just not having enough time in the day to do it all.  It was humbling for sure, and not in the glamorous way that people try to portray feeling humbled.  It was humbling in a way that knocked me down and made me feel like the smallest person on the Earth, only to find that there was still someone who loves me enough to help me through all of the heartache and to help me surrender all of the self-imposed pressures of building a perfect life.  I'm learning that the Proverbs 31 woman that I so desire to be isn't the way that she is because she strives to be,  killing herself to be that amazing woman; she's that way because she's surrendered trying to be perfect and has found her worth in the Lord instead of in the worldly standards that she could not possibly ever meet perfection with.

We have two literal Monica closets right now, in addition to all of the metaphorical ones.  Actually, I'm going to say that we have four of those closets.  We have four closets that require careful handling, lest you find yourself hit on the head with a toolbox, a heap of clothes, some parsley, or a haphazard bottle of Tums.  August is my month for renewal, my month of dealing with all of the Monica closets.  July isn't for that.  July has been about pushing through the Monica closets and accepting them for what they are right now-- giant, over-filled messes.  Our honeymoon is approaching, we leave next week for that.  And each day until then is packed to the brim with work, studying, cleaning, runnings errands, booking trains, buying tickets to tourist destinations, packing and re-packing.  But for almost two weeks, we're leaving our Monica closets behind and taking a break from everything that life has brought for us this summer.  We're leaving behind every stress and worry and fear, and we're going to enjoy honeymooning in Italy.  When we first got married, I was so bummed that we couldn't do a honeymoon right after.  With everything that happened for us right after our wedding, I'm now so glad that we didn't go on one then.  This one is coming at just the right time for us, and I think we'll be able to enjoy it so much more and will appreciate more than we ever would have 3 months ago.

I'm keeping August in the back of my mind as my month of renewal.  I've already had to surrender a lot of things for August.  I'm missing two weddings in August that I would give mostly anything to be there for.  Both couples are dear friends who supported Scott and I at our wedding, but the distance, my night shift schedule, and other recent life events are keeping us here in Indy in August.  I'm sure there will be more to surrender in August, more challenges may come our way by then, more things that we'll have to shove into a Monica closet, but I think we'll be ready for it then.

Scott and I have been following a practice that was introduced to us by his sister and brother-in-law at meals; Ashley and Chris read aloud from their Bible every night at dinner and then pray based on the passage that they just read.  We had adopted this awhile ago from them after they came to help me move to Indianapolis, but we kind of got out of practicing it for a little while.  Scott initiated it again recently, and we've been learning a lot reading through Job.  I don't think he was looking for any particular book to read in the Bible, but as he was flipping through I saw Job written at the top of a page and told him to stop there.  I knew Job, I had read through his story about a year ago.  Back then, it was powerful but didn't apply much to what I was going through.  Now, it's immensely important to me.  We've been reading about the suffering Job has gone through and how he praises God in the midst of such immense suffering, and it's a gentle reminder for us to do the same through difficult circumstances.

I think we all have Monica closets, whether physical or metaphorical ones.  And it's up to each of us to decide what we're going to do with them.  Will we keep shoving things into them to be dealt with later? Will we take the time to break them down and deal with what's inside, even if it takes a lot of time to do so? I don't know the right answer to all of this, but I know that we've had an incredible amount of Monica closets over the past few months.  Some were just given to us and we had no choice but to deal with them, and others were ones we created ourselves and just haven't had the chance to work through them yet.

Moral of the story? I'm a work in progress, right now.  The day is coming when I'll be a little more put together to share with you, but for now, I hope you're ok with the beautiful mess I'm in and the best that I can offer you through it.

Grace & peace, sweet friends.